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Reading New York Urbanisms is a required class in the first semester of the Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design (MSAUD) program at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) at Columbia University.

The goal of the class is to introduce students to New York City as a laboratory of historical experiments in both designing and interpreting the urban environment, to provide future urban designers with the observational and representational tools to “read” the city and the multiple forces that influence its physical form and social experience.

The class delves into specific places throughout the five boroughs of New York and analyze how different actors — writers, artists, designers, real estate developers, government agencies — have interpreted, represented, or intervened in these sites over time. Working in groups, students created short videos documenting the sense of place in sites that ranged from infrastructural systems like Grand Central Terminal and the Gowanus Canal to ethnic enclaves like Chinatown and Little Italy. From Roosevelt Island to Red Hook, these video portraits reveal underlying urban conditions and illuminate cultural, demographic, architectural, and environmental readings of the city.

I was asked to redesign this course from scratch for the summer of 2016. Aided by the invaluable help of Nans Voron and Grace Mills, two urban designers and recent graduates of the MSAUD program, I worked with 58 students to portray neighborhoods across New York. Check out some examples of their final videos here.

August 2016

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S | Q Projects      ︎  ︎  ︎      Cassim Shepard