Semester 2 saw the MAUD students taking part in several modules – two design modules and an independent research module preparing us for our thesis over the summer. In this blog, I will discuss each module, what I found difficult and what I enjoyed. I will also highlight things which I would have done differently, in the hope that future cohorts of the MAUD programme will benefit from this.
The main module of the semester was concerned with developing a robust housing strategy for the Science Central site – the same one we worked on in first semester. During this module, we were introduced to different housing approaches, such as cohousing, live/work housing, life-time homes and high quality speculative housing. We visited a number of different housing schemes, such as The Malings (Ouseburn), Sinclair Meadows (South Tyneside) and Lancaster Cohousing (Lancaster). These site visits were particularly interesting because we could understand the levels of expectation with high quality housing design in today’s era. As urban designers, I believe we all thoroughly enjoyed actually designing our housing schemes as we had to respond to our previous masterplan which we developed. This made it even more interesting as we were able to expand on ideas we had previously came up with, making the proposal more plausible. However, I believe that one of the biggest challenges with the module was not only understanding the complexity of all of the different housing typologies and approaches, but working out how they were financially viable within the rest of the scheme. This is where my previous degree and urban design modules I had taken part in helped me out. I was aware of potential funding streams for house builders and also of entities set up to support small businesses and public space development. I would suggest that future cohorts engaged with reading about financing methods as early in the module as possible, as it certainly made a challenging situation slightly easier for me.
Cities and Culture
This has been an incredibly exciting module, as we were able to travel to one of the most beautiful cities in the world to visit our project site – Milan. The task was to develop a masterplan for a site on the outskirts of the city centre, one which possessed its very own bit of architectural history. The site had an Aldo Rossi building sat in the middle of it – one which was abandoned midway through construction. This presented us with many challenges and opportunities, one of which being the redevelopment of the Rossi building. However, we couldn’t focus too much on the building itself as we had a very large site to consider, and to creatively design something which would benefit the rest of Milan. We centred our design around confluences and connections, as the site was located at the confluence of the River Olona and the Naviglio Grande. The project provided myself and my group with the opportunity to develop a masterplan which didn’t have a major focus on buildings, and more of a focus on developing a strong landscaping strategy. The project did present some challenges, mainly to do with managing our time efficiently with the Housing Alternatives module. I would suggest aiming to work proactively earlier on in the module as soon enough the Housing Alternatives module takes priority and it is difficult to make serious progress. Overall, the Cities and Culture module is incredibly interesting as it is the only project you take part in which is based in another country.
This module, as the title suggests, was an independent project which required us to develop our thesis idea through researching the topic’s literature. Having already written a literature review a year ago, I was able to dive straight in to the writing of it. I focused my research on the urban waterfront – I have also written a short blog on the topic. This was because from the beginning of the MAUD program, I was aware of the site which I wanted to work on, which happened to lay adjacent to the River Tees. Because of this, it meant that I had a lot of interest in what I was writing about, which I believe is very important. What I also enjoyed was working closely with Ali Madanipour, who provided the students with a lot of insight into their chosen topic. The most challenging thing during this module was dedicating the time to read enough papers to develop a strong discussion within the review. This, again, was due to the fact we had two other design modules we had to complete as well. I would suggest for this module to begin writing as soon as possible. I began writing my review in mid-march which certainly freed up more time for me later on in the semester, meaning I could spend more time on the design modules.
Overall, I believe I have managed my time fairly well, however there is certainly room for improvement. I would probably aim to finish a first draft of my literature review by the end of the Easter holiday, and spend a little bit more time on the Cities and Culture module earlier on in the semester.