Course Syllabus

Adv V


Jing Liu (


The Street Studio


This studio is about Community Engaged Design in the Public Realm. It sounds simple, but it is not.


First of all, who is the community? Do the people identify themselves as The Community? There are likely discrepancies between inwardly residing identities and outwardly expressed ones. It is likely that how others see the “community” is very different from the lived experience from within. There are likely communities within a “community,” and they are not always in agreement with each other. Be open-minded.


Then, how to engage? Engagement goes two ways. You learn from what they have to say and hope that they see value in what you have to offer. You need to engage with a diverse range of stakeholders, so the inputs are comprehensive and reflect the whole rather than a selected few. Each agent reveals new agencies. Engagement requires a plan. Engagement needs to be sustained. Trust is foundational to engagement.


What is design? According to Mark Wigley and Beatrice Colomina’s archaeology, design arose during the industrial revolution when it was felt that the machines and products they made did not have cultural value. They lacked soul. It seems necessary that to design, one needs to discover humanity in the objects, then breathe soul into them.


What about the Public? It is often an overused and under-examined term. Is it the exact opposite of Private? Or is it constantly negotiated between the two? Is the Public given? or self-determined? Does the Public belong to the “community” or anyone and everyone? What are the rights embedded in the Public? What is the difference between Civic and Public?


A realm is not a room, nor an area, where four walls or a line can define its boundaries. The realm is open-ended. It is fussy on the edges, porous in the middle, ambiguous sometimes, and needs constant care. Realm is an academic word. Many people might not know what you mean when you speak of the realm. How would you then explain it? How would you then define it? With words and works. 




The studio works in the colorful neighborhood of Jackson Heights, where I have been working since the beginning of the pandemic. We embed ourselves in the community and on the streets, talking to people we don’t know. We listen, learn and think carefully and intently before we draw. We think about the modernist canon and why the streets are the way they are. We discuss what should stay and what should go. We are respectful, curious, joyous, and free in our work. We are humbled every day by the resiliency and aliveness of this community. We remain flexible towards what comes our way. It’s a collective exploration without a pre-meditated outcome. Prolific and brave, we learn our own mistakes, misconceptions, and shortcomings through being in the realm of the real to create a new fiction imbued with ample agencies to become.


Our work revolves around three main topics: People, Places, and Things. Each will culminate with a clear set of outcomes as studio assignments.


  1. People refer to agents - users, occupants, caretakers, and stakeholders. We expand this category to the non-human and extra-human as well. Agents have discrete embodied memories and are capable of actions. We engage them to learn from their memories, enter into dialogue with them and have a discourse, knowing that our actions will affect their actions in ways big and small. Imagine small beams of light bouncing off many small luminescent that send out more beams. Each of you will work on an engagement plan, identifying the vectors of light and anticipating their onward paths. The engagement plans will become an entangled web of actions, impacts, and possibilities in our public realm.


  1. Place refers to a substrate. A substrate that is soft, carvable, and moldable, therefore it’s capable of recording the comings and goings of life. A place has a logic that holds together the idiosyncratic and the temporal. People seek out places where they can remain (maison in French). We make places our own. No matter how humble, messy, or lack of character it might seem to you, a place is someone’s home. However, a place needs to be cared for. Many places lack many things for many people. They can be safer, cleaner, greener, or merrier so people (human, non-human, and extra-human) can thrive. Each of you will discover what is beautiful about Jackson Heights and how it can be more. Write a love letter, make a drawing, take pictures, craft arguments, and send them to the mayor. He will respond.


  1. The philosopher and sociologist Bruno Latour wrote about “Dingpolitik,” stating, “each object gathers around itself a different assembly of relevant parties.” As architects, we can give forms and assign matters to this “object-oriented democracy.” We can make things that address real worries, matters of concern, and issues that people care for. These things have gravitational force. They draw people and other things to them. Some of them are enigmatic. Some are shy. Some are serious. Some are humorous. Some are heavy. Some are light. Some are long and curved. Some are short and straight. Some are punctual. Some are elusive. It is marvelous that people make so many things. We conceive of so many things. Some do good. Some are harmful. In this studio, we make beautiful things that we hope will do good.  




You are not alone. There are already people working on the ground and frameworks in place.

Our collaborators include but are not limited to: 

Leslie Ramos (President of 82nd Street BID)

Dan McPhee & Katherine Sacco (Urban Design Forum)

Barrika Williams (Executive Director of ANHD)

They will be our invaluable resources, sounding boards, co-investigators, and guides throughout the semester.


Other useful resources:


As The Street studio explores new models of engagement and design in the public realm, it is helpful and therefore required that each student familiarize themselves with some of the research and guidelines that have been done in this field.


In addition, each student is required to read one theoretical or narrative work at the beginning of the semester that acts as the conceptual underpinning of her project. We will discuss these readings as a group so the insights gained can be shared. 


A list of books read in the past:


Are We Human? are Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley’s field notes on an Archaeology of Design. They offer a multi-layered exploration of the intimate relationship between humans and design and rethink design philosophy in a multi-dimensional exploration from the very first tools and ornaments to the constant buzz of social media. The average day involves the experience of thousands of layers of design that reach to outside space but also reach deep into our bodies and brains. Even the planet itself has been completely encrusted by design as a geological layer. There is no longer an outside to the world of design. The archaeology of the way design has gone viral and is now bigger than the world. They range across the last few hundred thousand years and the last few seconds to scrutinize the uniquely plastic relation between brain and artifact. A vivid portrait emerges.


Atlas is set in the long-lost City of Victoria (a fictional world similar to Hong Kong) and written from the unified perspective of future archaeologists struggling to rebuild a thrilling metropolis. Divided into four sections – “Theory," "The City," "Streets," and "Signs" – the novel reimagines Victoria through maps and other historical documents and artifacts, mixing real-world scenarios with purely imaginary people and events while incorporating anecdotes and actual and fictional social commentary and critique.


Borrowed Spaces is a chronicle of how the grassroots citizens of Hong Kong reshape their city to make up for the shortcomings of their bureaucratic government. Mango trees sprouting on roundabouts, fishball stalls, and neon signs: are just some Hong Kong icons that are casualties in the struggle to reclaim public spaces. Christopher DeWolf explores the history of Hong Kong’s urban growth through the daily tug of war between the people’s needs to express themselves and government regulations.


Foams: Spheres Volume III: Plural Spherology moves from the historical perspective on humanity of the preceding two volumes to a philosophical theory of our contemporary era, offering a view of life through a multifocal lens. If Bubbles was Sloterdijk's phenomenology of intimacy and Globes his phenomenology of globalization, Foams could be described as his phenomenology of spatial plurality: how the bubbles that we form in our duality bind together to form what sociological tradition calls "society." Foams is an exploration of capsules, islands, and hothouses that leads to the discovery of the foam city.


From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik – or How to Make Things Public makes the claim that Realpolitik turns out to be a very unrealistic version of politics. In effect, most of our political passions and interests are turned toward things – the old English and German Ding- that could be translated nowadays as ‘issues.’ But in spite of this constant attention to things, political theory remained in a rather abstract level of opinions, positions, standing, problem-solving and, in general, discursive attitudes. The idea of the paper and thus of the show is to bring politics back to things and to see what happens when the various assemblies in which things are shaped and decided are compared to the traditional vocabulary of politics. The paper tries to present an overview of the catalog by slowly shifting attention from objects to things.


Homo Ludens is a book originally published in Dutch in 1938 by Dutch historian and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga. It discusses the importance of the play element of culture and society. Huizinga suggests that play is primary to and a necessary condition of the generation of culture. 


Signal. Image. Architecture.​ aims to clarify the status of computational images in contemporary architectural thought and practice by showing what happens if the technical basis of architecture is examined very closely, if its technical terms and concepts are taken very seriously, at times even literally. It is not a theory of architectural images but rather a brief philosophical description of architecture after imaging.


Kinaesthetic Knowing tracks neo-Kantianism’s alter ego from Helmholtz to Freud, from Wundt to Wölfflin, and from Obrist to the Bauhaus, dramatically revising our understanding of German formalist aesthetics during the long nineteenth century. Through sheer force of erudition and archival imagination, Zeynep Çelik Alexander brilliantly demonstrates the convergence around 1900 of aesthetic philosophy, psychology, and modernist design pedagogy in an experimental epistemology based on bodily movement. As she shows, this paradigm recalibrated long-standing philosophical antinomies like mind versus body in a manner that casts bright historical light on today’s renewed interest in affect and embodiment. 


Like a Thief in Broad Daylight illuminates the new dangers as well as the radical possibilities thrown up by today's technological and scientific advances and their electrifying implications for us all. In recent years, techno-scientific progress has started to utterly transform our world – changing it almost beyond recognition. In such a context, Žižek argues, there can be no great social triumph – because lasting revolution has already come into the scene, like a thief in broad daylight, stealing into sight right before our very eyes. 


The Shape of Time presented a radically new approach to studying art history. Drawing upon new insights in fields such as anthropology and linguistics, George Kubler replaced the notion of style as the basis for histories of art with the concept of historical sequence and continuous change across time.


Views of Nature, or Ansichten der Natur, was Alexander von Humboldt’s best-known and most influential work — and his favorite. While the essays that comprise it are themselves remarkable as innovative, early pieces of nature writing — they were cited by Thoreau as a model for his work — the book’s extensive endnotes incorporate some of Humboldt’s most beautiful prose and mature thinking on vegetation structure, its origins in climate patterns, and its implications for the arts. 


We will also look at reference projects that can teach us some things about making things. Below is a list of books read and projects looked at in previous studios. You can choose one from below or propose your own.


A list of projects studied in the past:


by SO-IL:



Pole Dance

Into the Hedge








by other artists/architects:


Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadisches Ballett

May Ray’s Rayograph

Ugo La Pietra's Living is being at home everywhere 

Aleksandra Kasuba’s Living Environment 

Haus Rucker Co’s Mind Expanding Program

Site’s Highrise Homes

Gutai’s Work “Water”

Lina Bo Bardi’s Teatro Oficina

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s River

Superstudio’s The Continuous Monument

Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome


Finally, some potentially useful graphic references for visual communication.


Graphics - collage, drawing, film:


The Manhattan Transcripts

The Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture





Palace at 4 am

Hans Op de Beeck





Powers of Ten







Liam Young

CyArk Projects

Monument Valley

Forensic Architecture





Pre-midterm assignments


Prior to mid-term, The Street studio will be divided into two sessions. During the first two weeks, we will undertake field research and precedent studies. As a group, we will read and explore contemporary theories on topics that may include but are not limited to climate, nature, play, science, representation, media, urbanization, etc. Each student will pick one precedent project loosely related to your topic for which critical analysis should be made. During this period, we will also converse with our collaborators on the ground to gain basic insights about community work.


Subsequently, each student will identify people they want to engage with and draw out an engagement plan. At the same time, you will document the site through the lens of your topic, may it be trash, food, street furniture, green, surveillance, etc. The two exercises are interrelated, of course. Who you engage will depend on which topic you want to investigate.


The deliverable for the mid-term is a thorough analysis of your investigation mapped onto a collective 3D model of the place — 82nd Street commercial corridor of Jackson Heights, and a comprehensive engagement plan throughout the project.


Post-midterm assignments


With the analysis in place, students can work individually, in pairs, or groups of three and make design proposals of systems, things, and events that improve upon identified deficiencies or realize untapped potentials. These interventions will layer onto the 3D model to form an atlas of possible “real” futures.


Concurrently, you will also implement your engagement plan preliminarily. Document your conversations with intent, contributing to an evolving oral history archive of the projects.


Final deliverable


As a group, the studio will share one digital model of the site with each student’s work embedded in it, in space, to scale. Your final presentation will be informed by analysis, engagement, and proposals of your chosen topic.


















Field research


Field notes








Project analysis



Reading analysis




Initial proposals


Proposal presentation






Field day

Field notes






3D model

Collective 3D model


3D model



3D model



Analysis mapped onto 3D model




Initial proposals


Proposal presentation








Field day

Field notes



Draft proposals


Proposal presentation







Field day

Field notes




3D model

Collective 3D model


3D model



3D model



Final draft review




Projects mapped onto 3D model

Course Summary:

Date Details Due