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This interdisciplinary graduate studio joins two urban design studios – URBD 501 and LA 604 – being taught within the Master of Urban Design and the Master of Landscape Architecture programs. The studio considers traditional urban challenges such as unemployment, poverty, and inequity in light of new urban infrastructural technologies that are quickly becoming prevalent in an increasingly digital age. These new technologies are creating novel opportunities that pertain to: small-scale entrepreneurship; the sharing economy; the Internet of Things (IoT); the Internet of People (IoP); new transport options (including driverless cars); the bottom-up leveraging of local and micro-situations; and new logistical options that can be used to enact a more circular economy.

Whether it is through driverless cars, the internet of things, or the new sharing economies, cities are poised to take on new kinds of behaviors and offer new kinds of lifestyles. New digital technologies reshape infrastructures that allow for a more fluid and nimble exchange of goods and services in comparison to traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ infrastructures.

Too often, when new technologies become available, the technologies ‘lead’ and people are forced to follow. When private automobile travel became the norm, the technology of the car demanded that traffic engineers build cities that could accommodate this new mode of transport, which in turn disrupted patterns of living and the face of urban scale and civility. We live with this legacy of disruption today: freeways tear through neighborhoods creating lines of segregation; long commutes snake their way to the suburbs; sprawl strains our infrastructure, and we are left with the anonymity of streets designed for flows of traffic rather than flows of people. As we move into an age increasingly mediated by digital flows, will these flows, in turn, control our lives, or will we control them so as to channel only those that lead to ‘best’ urban practices? What might ‘best’ even mean in this context?

Many mid-western cities have been ‘left behind’ through shifts in large-scale infrastructural economies, which moved industries offshore and left traditional manufacturing towns obsolete. The coming digital – infrastructural age may well offer new kinds of efficiencies that help to reignite communities in terms of employment opportunities, housing, and transport. This studio examines new possibilities offered by digital infrastructures that are able to leverage new opportunities and expertise, in ways that are more light, local, and nimble.

Students and faculty at Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, Council Bluff, IA, with downtown Omaha, NE, in the background


Director of Omaha by Design, Jamie Berglund, speaking to the group their downtown facility





February 8, 2018 1:47 pm

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