Erasing Boundaries between Architects and Planners in
Urban Design Studios
Urban design has historically occupied the gap between architecture and planning. Although there have long been
calls for the discipline to bridge this gap, urban design has continued to lean more heavily on design than planning.
The efforts to revitalize downtown Toledo, a mid-western U.S. town experiencing steep economic decline, present a
classic example of the potentially unfortunate results of this approach. Over the past three decades, there have been
many attempts to revitalize the city, especially its downtown, by constructing several large public buildings, all within a
few blocks of each other, all designed with little attention to each other or to the surrounding public spaces, and with
a remarkable lack of civic engagement.
Responding to calls in the literature for inter-disciplinarity in urban design, and to the city's experience with urban
design, the authors created a collaborative studio for architects and planners from two neighboring universities with
two purposes: first, to establish a collaborative work environment where any design interventions would be firmly rooted
in the planning context (i.e., to erase boundaries between architects and planners); second, to draw lessons from
this experience for the practice and teaching of urban design.
Despite the difficulties of collaborating, architects and planners benefited from exposure to each other, learning
about each other's work, as well as learning to collaborate. The interdisciplinary teams developed richer proposals
than the architect-only teams. Finally, critical engagement with the community is essential to shaping downtown development.
Keywords : Urban Design, Collaborative Studio, Architecture and Planning, Community Engagement.
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