Reshaping Tomorrow’s Cities

Re-imagining our urban landscape is about more than buildings. It takes bold thinking and a willingness to put big ideas into action.

What will tomorrow’s cities look like? Will they have more green space and green buildings? Will there be health care for all? Will our urban waterways be clean enough to swim in? Will neighborhoods support the type of cultural and multigenerational diversity that makes city life so vibrant?

These are some of the complex questions today’s cities face as we look to a future when more than half the world’s population will live in urban areas. Now more than ever, we need not only a deep understanding of what makes cities tick, but also the type of innovative thinking that will help metropolises run more efficiently for future generations.

Northeastern students and faculty get that. The University’s urban location, experiential approach, and unwavering commitment to its neighboring communities give rise to unmatched opportunities for rethinking urban life. Discover some of the ways our students are collaborating in course work, grassroots campaigns, and research to take 21st-century city life to new heights.

Rebuilding Neighborhoods

The ’60s, the decade best known for peace, love, and the start of the civil rights movement, also marked a less-than-positive period in urban renewal. It’s the period that inspired associate professor Peter Wiederspahn’s “1960s Urbanism” studio class, where students examine the not-so-distant past to find ways of revitalizing neighborhoods overtaken by cement sprawl and behemoth concrete slab buildings.

This past fall, fourth-year architecture students in the class were asked to come up with a plan to transform a blighted 22-acre section of Worcester, Mass., into a dynamic, bustling hub for transit, housing, nightlife, and business. The group project started with city officials leading the class on a tour of the site. After 12 weeks of exhaustive research, drawing, and modelbuilding, each project group of six had a plan that included elements like lush parks, small-business space, and community centers.

The goal, Wiederspahn says, is for students to understand how urban redevelopment in the 1960s displaced the existing urban fabric. “When you have an opportunity to design such a large parcel in a historic core area, you have the chance to build a community, one that will be vibrant for many years to come,” he explains, adding that his students’ work could be applied to any city looking to revitalize its neighborhoods and attract suburbanites.

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  • Why Urban Studies?

    Northeastern's Urban Studies minor provides students interested in cities the opportunity to take advantage of he resources of an urban university situated in a major metropolitan area. The minor equips students to understand the dynamics of urban growth and development and includes the study of urban social and political institutions. It also enables students to understand urban processes and develop policies to keep cities vibrant.

    An urban studies minor complements many social science majors as well as architecture, business, and engineering. The minor also provides a solid background for graduate study and professional careers in urban planning and policy, social work, and related fields.

  • Contact Information

    School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs
    Northeastern University
    335 Holmes Hall
    Boston, MA 02115

    617.373.2891 (phone)
    617.373.4691 (fax)
    jo.fitzgerald@neu.edu