Reading the Urban Environment

Reading the Urban Environment (RUE) is a custom-designed workshop offering for students of architecture at the undergraduate and post-graduate level. It serves as a primer to their academic design studio dealing with proposals for a site at the urban/city scale.
The workshop is an introduction to methods of analysing, evaluating, and recording the urban environment based on field observation. It is designed to better equip students to address a wide variety of urban design exercises including design of streets and public places, shaping areas at the neighbourhood scale and addressing issues pertaining to an existing urban fabric.

Sample Exercises
An introduction to urban terms and definitions – Land uses, building uses, districts, neighbourhoods, blocks and parcels, streets, buildings, frontages, traffic, parking, public activities, and landscaping, providing an overview of an urban area at a particular point in time.
Snapshot exercise – Observing a set of photographs, chosen to capture specific urban objects or urban experiences, and describe what is seen in them; The purpose of the exercise was to introspect on how everyday urban experiences are conditioned, and also to develop observation skills without assumptions or bias.
Field observation – Techniques to define area of influence and structure observation methods; Findings were related to the nature of pedestrian and vehicular infrastructure, quantity and quality of traffic, physical character of surrounding neighbourhoods, types of housing, nature of commerce in the area, environmental conditions around the site, climate, and proximity to public transport infrastructure.Use these observations to identify the potentials and challenges offered for development on the site.
Defining concepts & data representation – An important skill required for a designer is to be able to state the case for an intervention (an intent or concept), and illustrate very clearly how this has been achieved through design. The workshop hence included a presentation on various types of drawings that the students could use to present their information, inferences, design concepts, and detailed design drawings.

NOTE: RUE workshops are offered during summer and winter breaks in various cities and also to colleges on request. Email us for details.

Project team: Vidhya Mohankumar, Shruti Shankar, Abinaya Rajavelu, Devangi Ramakrishnan