Social Factors in Architecture

This page showcases two activities–an ethnographic design project (an individual assignment) and a post-occupancy evaluation (a group project)–that were part of an undergraduate architecture course I taught as a graduate student instructor at UC Berkeley.

The ethnographic design project engages students in identifying user needs through a variety of research methods–observation, interview, and literature/precedent review–as the inspiration for a proposed redesign that supports and celebrates user needs.

This project is conducted by individual students over the course of a semester, in 6 parts as follows:

Part 1:  site selection and research proposal

Part 2: selecting and interviewing an informant

Part 3: analyzing interview and creating taxonomies

Part 4: literature and precedent review

Part 5: redesign proposal

Part 6: presentation and final paper

The post-occupancy evaluation (POE) of a campus (or local) building conducted by all members of a course, divided into small groups to focus on a specific research question and method (see matrix below). The methodology for this project is described in detail in this article published by myself and Dr. Galen Cranz (2014).

Part 6: Final Poster

Designing for Vulnerable Communities in a Post-COVID World

Epidemic illnesses are as old as cities themselves. The COVID-19 pandemic put into perspective the impact of epidemic illness on urban life, and exposed the vulnerabilities of the societies it ravages as much as the bodies it infects. How can epidemics help us understand urban environments? How can we leverage these insights to better prevent and more justly intervene in future pandemics?

Undoubtedly, the cities, schools, homes, and spaces of recreation we inhabit will undergo large and small changes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we anticipate the inevitable next epidemic or pandemic. What might these changes look like? Or, more to the point, what should they look like? In other words, how might we use this time of rebuilding and rethinking to envision, design, and inhabit built settings that are more just and equitable? How might we re-center health in all design practices and processes?

For this design assignment, propose the redesign of a site to fit one of the following categories:

  1. Senior Housing
  2. Community Clinics
  3. Neighborhood Schools
  4. Public Parks

Some videos for inspiration

Education in the Post-COVID World
Healthcare Design