University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Contact Us:

Harry Van Oudenallen
Dept. of Architecture
Phone: 414-229-4014
Please place "New Orleans" in Subject Box

New Orleans

 Learning from New Orleans

ARCH 585: Research Methods in Architecture
ARCH 825: Comprehensive Studio
ARCH 654: Studies in Urban and Community Design Theory


Fall 2010
Instructors: Harry Van Oudenallen and Arijit Sen
Office Hours: By Appointment

The integrated Learning from New Orleans studio consists of a Research Methods and a studio component. In the research methods class you will learn how to analyze and make sense of information and in the studio you will apply that knowledge. Students will be introduced to research strategies that will directly inform design interventions in the studio. Hence the syllabi and D2L class sites for both courses are integrated as are the class schedules. Architectural research as taught in this course will advance evidence-based and informed implementation of design decisions and will integrate the research and design processes within a single integrated and iterative sequence.

This course focuses on and distinguishes design from other forms of research and practice seen in the social sciences and the natural sciences. Design involves a humanistic understanding of social, material, cultural, political, economic and environmental circumstances of human habitation and this knowledge results in informed architectural interventions. This process will require you to look for pattern and systems that underpin the physical and social reality of what you are studying. In this case it is the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Your intervention should be able to draw from this information, and your design will be your interpretive response to the data that you gather during your study.

SOTL (Scholarship of teaching and learning goals)
This class follows a teaching strategy called Problem-Based-Learning (PBL) where resolving real life problems are planned into the curriculum in ways that promote higher-level cognitive learning. PBL is a teaching method that is best applied in the study of complex knowledge domains such as culture and architectural design where there is no single scientific answer or resolution. Problems based learning also allows students to apply and evaluate complex information that they encounter during research directly into their design. 

On completion of this class students will gain the following skills. (NAAB criteria refers to the 2004 National Architectural Accrediting Boards student performance objectives for architecture schools)

  1. An ability to collect empirical data and do field work. (NAAB Criteria: collaborative skills, Critical thinking skills)
  2. An awareness of ethnographic, archival, architectural, observational, and ecological data collection strategies and an understanding of interpretive and correlational analysis. An ability to collect, analyze, synthesize and evaluate data. (NAAB Criteria: Graphic skills, writing skills; national and regional traditions, human behavior, use of precedents, human diversity, site conditions, sustainable design)
  3. An ability to craft a thesis statement and produce an appropriate program of inquiry. An ability to evaluate and apply information. (NAAB Criteria: Critical thinking skills; program preparation, sustainable design, ethics)


1. The Format

The central question-set. Students are asked to respond to the following questions:

  1. What is social equity and social justice? What is your position on the “Rights to the City” charter?
  2. What are the various theoretical and practical approaches to social justice executed in American cities and case studies?
  3. How is social justice relevant to urban case studies (New Orleans in this case).
  4. How can theories of social justice be applied in studio design? How can you translate theory into practice?

2. Strategies
This semester we will look at the New Orleans case study via three “systems.” These are strategies that will help us understand the situation on the ground better. These systems include a) infrastructural system, b) ecological system, c) the lived system. Students are first required to analyze and document each of these systems separately. Based on their understanding of how these systems operate and how they relate to each other, students will create a program statement that will define the focus of their subsequent project. Thus unlike other studios students will have create their own project statement. By October 10, students will have a clear idea of 1) what their project is, 2) how they approach their project, 3) and the way they will intervene.

3. Roles
In addition to being designers, students will also play the role of research specialists that will allow them to focus on specific skills of information collection and knowledge domains. These roles include a) historian, b) ethnographer, c) Scribe, d) Ecologist, and e) Documenter. These roles will be further explained in class.

4. Workshops and Field Work
Mark these days in your calendar. These are days when we will have special workshops and travel.
September 20, 2010 MONDAY: Workshop with Nabeel Hamdi, 12:00 Noon - 5:00 PM.
October 9, 2010 - October 19, 2010,: Field work trip to New Orleans

5. Required Text:
Phil Steinberg and Rob Shields, What is a City: Rethinking the Urban after Hurricane Katrina, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008).

Recommended Text:
Emily Talen, Design for Diversity: Exploring Socially Mixed Neighborhoods, (Architectural Press, 2008);
The following books are held on reserve in the Resource Center and/or in the Library (do not buy)
Ila Berman and Mona El Khafif, Urban/Build Local/Global, (California: William Stout, 2009)
Eve Blau and Ivan Rupnik, Project Zagreb: Transition as Condition, Strategy, Practice, (New York: Actar D, 2007)
Jeff Hou, Jeff Hou, (ed), Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and The Remaking of Contemporary Cities (Kentucky: Taylor and Francis Group, 2010)
Charles Waldheim, ed. The Landscape Urbanism Reader, (New York: Princeton University Press, 2006)

6. Schedule
Tuesdays and Thursdays are scheduled for in class design charrettes and desk reviews. Charrettes results are due on Friday of the same week. (except the week of September 21 and October 8)
Friday mornings are group workshops on research methods (except the week of September 21 and October 8)
Friday afternoons are discussions and group reviews. Friday evenings are pizza and movie days (except the week of September 21 and October 8).

7. Grades and Grading
1. Readings and discussions
The course is a collective endeavor. Your participation in class discussion is paramount: essential and expected. As such, you need to read all of the assigned readings and critically think about the issues posed in them before each class. Class sessions should have a constructive and reflective atmosphere in which all participate, discussing their thoughts and concerns, and providing useful, constructive feedback. The instructor’s role is as facilitator, discussant, resource, devil's advocate, occasional protagonist, and eventual evaluator.

Class discussions will be judged by the flexibility and critical ability of a student to evaluate and value the different perspective intentions, positions, and purposes of the area of study. In that respect it is important for students to display the ability to questions perspectives that they are more comfortable with and apply positions they are less familiar with. The discussions should display that the discussant is ready to question, reconsider, reaffirm, or reconstruct their evolving positions. Students will be called upon to direct discussion every week.

2. Grades
Grades are based on the following categories:

30%  In class participation 
  Regular attendance
  Completing assigned readings
  Leading discussions and sharing ideas
  Intellectual curiosity, taking intellectual risks, suspending disbelief and trying out ideas that are different

20%   Student Presentations
  Showing growth and regular progress during the semester
  Displaying motivation and intellectual curiosity

50%    Project
  Quality and standards


8. University Policies
           In this course, university policies and procedures will be followed for academic misconduct, accommodation for disability and religious observation, discriminatory conduct, sexual harassment, and other matters. These are briefly described below.
           The university has a responsibility to promote academic honesty and integrity and to develop procedures to deal effectively with instances of academic dishonesty. Students are responsible for the honest completion and representation of their work, for the appropriate citation of sources, and for respect of others' academic endeavors.
           A student may appeal a grade on the grounds that it is based on a capricious or arbitrary decision of the course instructor. Such an appeal shall follow the established procedures adopted by the department and school. These procedures are available in writing from the department chair.
           If you need special accommodations in order to meet any of the requirements of this course, please contact me as soon as possible. Also, please see me if you anticipate a conflict in attending a class because of a religious observation.
           Sexual harassment will not be tolerated by the university. It subverts the university's mission and threatens the careers, educational experience, and well-being of students, faculty and staff. The university will not tolerate behavior between or among members of the university community which creates an unacceptable working environment.
           All projects shall be designed to engage the environment in a way that dramatically reduces or eliminates the need for fossil fuels, and to convey an ethical position in regard to the use of non-renewable materials and materials that pose a threat to human and environmental health.

9. Bibliography

Weekly Reading and Schedule


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