Following the Thesis Seminar in the Fall Semester, Design Studio VI offers students the opportunities to answer the questions posed by their own research prompts. In the Spring Semester, students make the architecture that supports and is supported by the thesis statements and studies that they formulated in the Fall seminar research. Students work within the structure of the studio environment under the advisement of their instructors, but the flexibility and the independent nature of a thesis project allows students to pursue their individual topics and representational modes. The issues relating to the critical practice of architecture that were raised in the Fall Seminar are still discussed in the Spring Studio, but the focus shifts to the production of buildings and architectural studies that resolve formal, programmatic, and technical requirements posed by a complex urban building. Mobility as an overarching theme has provided the framework for a range of individual architectural pursuits throughout the year and the Spring semester studio is the environment within which students’ specific areas of focus emerge as multi-faceted buildings with associated sites. Since interaction with faculty, peers and professionals in the field is central to the pedagogy surrounding the production of thesis projects, SCE faculty, visiting critics and technical professionals review the work through workshops and critiques.
This year before our urban environment was radically altered by the Covid-19 pandemic, a few of the current issues that center around mobility were the controversies over bike lanes, the prospective introduction of congestion pricing in Manhattan, the woeful state of the MTA, the rehabilitation of the New York City airports, the future of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and the question of airport access via mass transit. The virus highlighted a range of social and economic factors relating to Mobility that are just beginning to be understood but are yet to be interrogated. M.Arch thesis students spent a good portion of the Fall Thesis seminar looking at the issues of Mobility in the hope that they could be better understood and that their implications for architecture, urban design and public space could be ascertained. The class as a whole explicated that there is an architectural component to every aspect of mobility in the city, and through the seminar process of research through making, in the production of artifacts, students selected topics that have resonance and meaning for themselves, the city and architecture. As was seen throughout the study of Urban Mobility in the Fall, almost everything connects to mobility in some way, and all of these issues have architectural implications. It is no exaggeration to say that every architectural problem, at least in the city, connects in some way to issues of mobility, and every issue of mobility and movement connects in some way to architecture.
Students thought deeply about the design of subway stations, about bicycle infrastructures, multi-modal transportation centers, post-automobile mobility in relation to the block structure of the city, equity surrounding changing infrastructures, sidewalks, mobility and health, mobile architecture, about airports, about accessibility, about mobility in a purely conceptual and less literal ways. The Fall semester was rich with architectural possibilities and the Spring has embodied the aspirations of the earlier studies. We found that thinking about mobility is about the pragmatics of how we function every day in the city, but it is not just about the physical movement of our bodies; it is also about how we experience the city emotionally and politically as well. The theme of mobility invites questions about how the individual experiences the city vs. how we experience the city collectively, and about the extent to which infrastructure and the architecture that surrounds it is, or is not, democratic. And as the Spring Semester operated under the shadow of the virus and the explosive realization of both the necessities and problems associated with urban and global connectedness, the issues of Mobility became even more understood to be some of the most pressing issues of our time. Architecture’s roles and responsibilities within the milieu and future of urban Mobility cannot be understated.