Responding to urban design challenges: Students explore architecture in Brazil

This semester, 12 Princeton undergraduates explored architectural and urban design through a course that took them to Brazil over fall break to gain firsthand knowledge of the topics discussed on campus. The course, “The Interdisciplinary Design Studio,” was developed by PEI associated faculty member Mario Gandelsonas, professor of architecture and the Class of 1913 Lecturer in Architecture, with support from a PEI’s Urban Grand Challenges program.

 

This fall, Princeton faculty teaching “The Interdisciplinary Design Studio” are introducing 12 students to architectural and urban design issues to help build their critical thinking and design skills. Central to the course was a fall-break trip to Brazil where students gained firsthand experience of the topics discussed on campus.

Mario Gandelsonas, professor of architecture and the Class of 1913 Lecturer in Architecture, developed the course in conjunction with architecture and urbanism faculty from the University of São Paulo. Gandelsonas, who is an associated faculty member of the Princeton Environmental Institute, developed the course with support from a 2017 seed grant he received through PEI’s Urban Grand Challenges program.

Design faculty from Princeton’s School of Architecture co-teach the studio with faculty across disciplines to expose students to the multiple forces within which design operates. This semester, Anthony Acciavatti, a Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies/Princeton Mellon Fellow, is teaching alongside Gandelsonas, who also serves as a principal investigator for the Princeton Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities.

The course provides students, regardless of their major, an introduction to urban design and design-studio culture, as well as hands-on design experience. A requirement for the urban studies certificate, the studio offers a forum where undergraduates can develop research interests in multiyear sequences that might culminate in robust junior or senior independent work.

“Faculty and students have expressed increasing interest in the architectural studio model of learning,” Gandelsonas said. “We’re employing it in this class as a way to bridge architecture, landscape, urbanism, the humanities and the environmental sciences in the exploration of the contemporary city.”

In addition to the Urban Grand Challenges program, support for the class also came from the Program in Latin American StudiesVice Provost for International Affairs and Operations Anastasia Vrachnos, the Princeton Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities, and the School of Architecture.