Civic Dreams, human spaces

Stanford 4-unit course  |  Fall 2015

Cities are dynamic environments featuring a multitude of lives, livelihoods, and creative possibilities. In particular, a city’s public spaces—given their shared nature, daily contact with citizens, and the role they play in the popular imagination—represent opportunities for human-centered design and civic innovation.

In this course, we explored the principles underlying vibrant public spaces, utilizing a wide array of tools for observing and prototyping, while seeking new sources of inspiration to inform the process of urban development. We decoded public spaces from multiple perspectives: as sites of recreation, interaction, and political contention; as physical infrastructure that municipalities or grassroots citizen efforts build and maintain for the common good; and as places with intangible qualities, such as historical memory, identity, and personal stories.

The course included public space design projects with the City of San Francisco to more deeply understand the urban fabric and to enhance social benefits provided to real-world places.

We practiced ethical approaches, using frameworks that are inclusive (for many) and participatory (by many), and strived to benefit human beings and their diverse communities. Through this experience, students learn to design with creativity, with social commitment, and with deliberation.

Co-taught with:
Deland Chan, Stanford University Urban Studies
Kevin Hsu, Disney Research
Kursat Ozenc, SAP

Streets, Squares, & Roundabouts

Creative Tools for Urban Spaces

Stanford pop-up course  |  Spring 2015

With growing adoption of digital fabrication tools, community maker spaces, and open access to civic data, the public realm has become a canvas for citizens’ imaginations. Forward-thinking cities around the world are beginning to harness the collective power of citizen-creators, including the use of “urban prototyping” to engage local communities and enliven public spaces.

In this workshop, students practiced designing with people in cities, beginning with the fundamental skill of observation. Students learned observation strategies for urban environments and discussed of the larger ethic of “participatory design” and public engagement.

The course took place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts during the weekend of the Market Street Prototyping Festival [link:] in San Francisco. Students conducted observations at the festival, and we re-convened to synthesize findings and try our hand at refining a set of design thinking tools to use to urban spaces.

Co-taught with:
Deland Chan, Stanford University Urban Studies
Kevin Hsu, Lecturer, Urban Studies, Disney Imagineering