You will never be bored as a student at WashU- the amount of programming put on by student groups and faculty ensure that you will always have something to do. Recently, I took part in the Informal Cities Workshop, a weekend design charrette exercise for student teams, who helped frame an understanding of the forces shaping informal settlements and the critical behaviors, requirements, and practices of their inhabitants. The Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts hosts workshops every semester that allow students to engage with diverse topics and faculty. Some past workshops have included Native American Myths and Visual Culture, Interaction Design, and Investigating St. Louis through Film.
The Informal Cities workshop was led by Alfredo Brillembourg, founding partner of Urban-Think Tank, a nonprofit interdisciplinary design practice dedicated to research and design on contemporary architecture and urbanism. Working in global contexts, the firm bridges between first-world industry and third-world informal areas through a focus on the education and development of a new generation of professionals who will transform cities in the 21st century. By hosting the workshop, architecture and engineering students were given the opportunity to investigate the future of the global city- a question that will continue to be at the center of the design professional’s work.
The weekend was contextualized in a course I took this fall with the chair of the urban design department, John Hoal. This class, entitled Informal Cities: The Future of Global Urbanism, introduced me to an entirely different definition and approach to architecture. This workshop was one of the many examples that demonstrate the Sam Fox School’s dedication to developing the next generation of responsible and responsive architects and designers.
The design exercise focused on the development of a functional and replicable housing process for a specific site in the Khayelitsha slum of Cape Town, South Africa. The weekend encouraged the development of a critical position on the potential role of the architect to mediate a design process within broader social, political, and economic systems. We began in teams of three working on the individual housing unit and, by the end, produced a proposal for the entire neighborhood.
As a student at Washington University, you will be given unique opportunities to investigate the future of your area of study. I am incredibly lucky to have discovered my passion in entirely different side of design. I am continuing my research into slums through conversations with professors and the pursuit of a summer internship. What passions will your discover at WashU?