Resilient Communities and Landscapes
Master of Design Studies
Resilient thinking equips us to reimagine how human life might be organized on Earth through urban drivers of change—water, energy, mobility, food, housing, aging, and health. This unique program is dedicated to finding design’s role in solving for pressing public-interest design issues by synthesizing design, research, and emergent modes of agency. We are doing this in the context of America’s premiere award-winning teaching office—the University of Arkansas Community Design Center.
Who should consider participating?
Design leaders with professional degrees in architecture or landscape architecture who want to connect social activism, public-interest issues, and problem-solving through innovative design. This program is for designers intending to make an impact within emerging urban frontiers by combining design and policy.
What will this program equip design leaders to do?
Public sectors everywhere are asking designers to solve for multivariate problems of socio-economic complexity. This program is targeted at those seeking careers focused on public-interest design and planning. The program’s intellectual culture offers the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills to:
Engage “Wicked” Problem Solving
Construct trans-disciplinary approaches involving sociology, ecology, energy, and economics in urban landscapes
Formulate design vocabularies to solve for systems
Communicate through alignment of values vs defense of design
Why the University of Arkansas and the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design?
The program offers an unprecedented opportunity to work with practicing professionals at the University of Arkansas Community Design Center and its research partners at the University of Arkansas Resiliency Center on real-world projects with clients and stakeholders. While most urban design and sustainability programs are focused on the global megacity, our program focuses on mid-sized cities and the low-density metropolis where most populations live. While our work goes beyond Arkansas, Fayetteville routinely ranks as one of the top ten American small towns for livability.
Why this program and why now?
Need for a New Ecology of the City
We are not as urban as we think we are. Close to 85 percent of Americans live in low-to-moderate density places outside the nation’s top 50 downtown cores. Ironically, the world is becoming less dense as it becomes more urban. While the megacity may be more energy efficient, the low-density metropolis and mid-sized city have a better chance at resiliency given the interconnectedness of their ecosystems, infrastructure, and urban fabrics. The UACDC and partners have developed a repertoire of place-making platforms in low impact development, context-sensitive street design, watershed urbanism, middle-scale housing, development-oriented transit, and agricultural urbanism that deliver public goods through design. The UACDC’s platforms collectively yield a new ecology of the city necessary to engage the greatest ongoing challenge to planning and design: design within human-dominated ecosystems, or the Anthropocene. The program’s strength is its focus on connecting innovative design inquiry across architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and ecological engineering with deep problem solving for ordinary contexts. Responding to the market’s unmet need for expansive problem solvers, the program’s objective is to produce design leaders equipped to engage complexity and problems in the public interest.
Nationally recognized in public-interest design, the UACDC has its own facilities and staff of practicing architects and urban designers, adjoining the Resiliency Center, on Fayetteville’s downtown square. The UACDC’s award-winning studio offers state-of-the-art work space and complements the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design’s award-winning building and fabrication shops on the university campus nearby. The Center’s tool-specific design work routinely encompasses collaborations among allied professionals in ecological engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, horticulture, public policy, economic development, food science, real estate and law. Students will participate in research and development of project approaches, formulation of project framework vocabularies communicative to lay audiences, and design for real-world projects. Research and design are scholarly activities through production of new knowledge and perspectives, as exemplified in three recent books by the UACDC—Low Impact Development: a design manual for urban areas, Houses for Aging Socially: Developing Third Place Ecologies, and Conway Urban Watershed Framework Plan. Students will have opportunities to work both individually and collectively in authoring design proposals, reports, and other scholarly products.
The three-semester, 36-credit hour curriculum is design-centered but supported by study of emergent paradigms in resilience, ecology and energy, cooperative economics, and social equity—a transformative discourse that challenges disciplinary silos. Another unique aspect of the program’s course of study is its focus on the gaps between social and political decision-making and adoption of progressive design. Required courses in sustainability will be co-taught by ecological engineering faculty with expertise in systems thinking and include students from the Sam Walton College of Business and the College of Engineering. The last semester is devoted to an internship at an internationally recognized design firm.
Advanced Urban Design Studio 1
Sustainability 1: Analysis and Design of Resilient Systems
Creating Context: Vocabularies of Cities, Ecosystems, and Services
Methods of Design Inquiry: Socio-economic, Political, Cultural, and Ecological Considerations
Advanced Urban Design Studio 2
Sustainability 2: Metrics in Decision Making, Analysis, and Synthesis
Cities, Infrastructure, and Concepts of the Public Good
Design Leadership: Projecting Vision, Strategy, and Operational Practice in Design Teams
Graduate Residency (six weeks)