Strategies for Making Urban Microscopes

This urban design studio focuses on recognizing the potentials of small-scale gradients and inefficiencies as opportunities generated by waste within the city. I suggest two, scale-specific approaches to identify and accelerate apparatuses of socially-productive growth: reducing distances (de-globalize and re-localize) and focusing productive activity. Together these approaches can support urban microscapes – networks and structures designed to support existing activities within the social and economic margins of urban life. At the city scale, urban microscopes manifest as a series of autonomous zones – social, economic, and cultural layers of infrastructure bringing together experimental initiatives that engender novel skill sets, products, and interactions among neighbors while identifying untapped potentials within the city and capturing material, economic ,and ecological flows throughout the region. The autonomous zones re-localize capital flows while amplifying existing social networks. At the scale of the urban lot, a series of urban life-support apparatuses – small-scale, precisely applied assemblages – can generate ‘heat’ through the transformation of urban land functions by altering the interfaces operating within and through urban space. The assemblages form the nodes of the larger networks of the autonomous zones. They identify areas of increased activity, channel productive energy through those nodes, and alert potential participants to the presence of activity.

Fall 2006: University of Detroit Mercy.