Urban Cultures

Migration, displacement and urbanisation, the impact of fast developing economies as well as of new forms of production, the legacy of urban forms typical of our recent past, current environmental challenges and the quest for a shared access to resources are challenging the ways in which we approach the project of the city and of urbanised territories. Confronted with these and other challenges, traditional design methods often fail to successfully provide adequate answers. Organised within an intense research-based setting, the design studios of the Urban Cultures engagement seek to develop and teach innovative design tools through creative processes that are based on theĀ understanding of a given condition from a social, historical and environmental perspective. The understanding of present conditions as a prerequisite to intervention is supported by the relationship that many of the Urban Cultures design studios establish with ongoing research projects and by the professional expertise of its design tutors. The link between studio work and research unfolds in the possibility of allying the theoretical space of the classroom with the practical space of the design studios, bridging design activities with emerging developments in urban theory.

The thematic focus of Urban Cultures studios over the coming years will more and more shift towards questions related to the ecological and socioeconomic transition of our cities and territories, promoting approaches that favour transformation and reuse, restoration and remedial, retrofitting and regeneration of what is already there over inventionĀ and novelty.

Despite a continuously updated set of geographical frameworks for project and research, Urban Cultures studios have over the past years worked on a twofold agenda that will continue to be developed: on the one hand electing Belgium, Flanders and its cities and suburban territories as relevant case study for design and research, and on the other hand focusing on the global metropolis under processes of hyper-transformations, with projects developed for cities such as Buenos Aires, Karachi and Shenzhen.

In terms of teaching method and pedagogies, all Urban Cultures design studios expand the traditional scope of the architectural project, promoting cross-scale approaches and with outputs ranging between buildings and social infrastructures, environmental systems and tactical strategies, prototypes and 1:1 installations. Consequently, the work of the architect is here primarily understood as the result of a negotiated process carried out as a collective endeavour, nurtured by cooperation and exchange and aiming at setting up the framework within which personal design trajectories can be developed.

Martino Tattara
Curator Urban Cultures Engagement, Faculty of Architecture, KU Leuven
March 2021