Urban Research and Design

This course seeks to breach the traditional classroom walls, pushing students outside of the confines of Winchester Thurston and reducing the boundaries between the city and the school.

It privileges self-guided, experiential learning and asks students to work creatively to address, if not solve, pressing systemic problems. The first trimester is devoted to academic study and field work as students read deeply about efforts to renew cities and to create sustainable communities. Topics covered include economics, poverty, city politics, urban design, race, class, and the environment.

During the remainder of the 2014-2015 academic year, students investigated the Arsenal Park and Leslie Park redevelopment projects in Lawrenceville. To do this, they did site visits of both parks and met with local agencies, master site planners, business owners, and other stakeholders. A culminating project and presentation focused on their own proposals for creative solutions to the redevelopment projects.

In 2015-2016, students spent the first half of the year focused on redevelopment projects in the Hill District and Strip District. Their efforts included regular site visits, meeting with developers and city planners, and consulting with local businesses and residents. Their final projects included detailed proposals for use of the redevelopments and models of their plans for the site. The second half of the year focused on projects driven by student interest and activism. The students selected issues facing communities in Pittsburgh, collaborated with local nonprofits addressing those issues, and actively worked to make a difference with and for communities. Projects included an art project to promote youth activism, the redesign of streetscapes to alleviate crime, a updated design of recycling bins for public spaces, and a crowdfunding campaign to support a local provider for fresh produce.