Course Syllabus

Advanced Design Studio VI


Something of Value, NGO HQ

Arguments for Architecture in 2021

Spring 2021

Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation

Columbia University


Galia Solomonoff, critic

Udit Goel, adj. associate



Hybrid Studio Hours:

Tuesdays 9.30 am to 12.30 pm Group Meetings, Jan 25 to Apr 15, Avery 600S Studio.

Thursday 2 pm to 5 pm remote Crits via zoom, Jan 12 to Apr 15, online, individual or teams.

Teams: Projects can be done individually or in teams of two or three.


Studio Parameters:


The Client: Our studio will design for an assumed "client," a tech-sector company and is endowing a new NGO of global reach to address and help solve a global issue defined by you/your team.


The Project: Our studio project is to design the NGO's headquarters that the given tech company has endow for 100 years. The building is part of the endowment and needs to be "something of value" in itself.


The Site: The site is to be determined by you/your team. It should be in a city that connects to the issues the NGO will address. The NGO HQ can use the entire site or be part of more extensive development.


The Program: The NGO HQ program should include a 200-socially-distanced or 500-seat Auditorium or gathering space with capacity for interactive remote meetings and simultaneous translation -as in the UN General Assembly Hall. *(The studio will visit the UN General Assembly Hall in NYC). The NGO HQ shall include 10,000 SQFT of outdoor areas. The outdoor areas (elevated plaza, gardens, atrium, bridge) should be designed with equal care as the interior building areas and allow for meetings in different climate conditions. The exact program is to be defined by each designer or team. The NGO's maximum allowed interior square footage is 40,000 to 50,000 SQFT.


The tech company endowing the NGO has assets worldwide and wishes to be represented by this building as an environmentally responsible entity. The company wants the building design to demonstrate its intent to help curve climate change, extreme inequality, and mitigate pandemic and environmental risks, which it sees as related to its company's mission. 


Method: The studio shall be divided into 4 segments.

  • Research/Design (until Jan 28, 2021)
  • Argument/Design (until Feb 18, 2021)
  • Design, First Round (until Mar 18, 2021)
  • Design, Final Round (until Apr 15, 2021)


Research: Drawing from an array of contemporary examples, our research will concentrate on examining the idea of value in Architecture and the contexts of Architecture, Art, and Real Estate, all of which often assign merit to different, even opposite things. How is value different for each area of knowledge? Is there something considered valuable across the board? As a studio group in the first meetings, January 14, 19, and 21, we will discuss in a seminar format what constitutes value for a tech company, the public, the university, the city, and you. We will research the history and ascend of money as a global instrument to exchange value, the recent trends toward digitalization of everything, including the capital, and the constants of real estate, state-building, education, and governance as mediators of values.


The Tech company argument for the NGO: Everything has changed. And it will change again. After 9/11, skyscrapers got built again. More skyscrapers were built after 2001 than ever before. After COVID, we will share and meet in rooms again. Being with others will become even more precious. We will not take for granted a classroom, an elevator, a meeting, or the city. 



Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, NBBJ, 640,000 SQFT


Our society's most valuable resources are becoming increasingly immaterial. Way before COVID, we as a collective started to move away from printed money and into codified transactions, away from industrial production and into web-based economies, away from control via walls and into cyber-control. We buy food via apps, make payments from accounts via code, pay for homes and cars with monthly draws. One can live in the abstract medium of shifting numbers far away from the raw materials needed to make our food, clothing, furniture, or homes. We can live alone, have thousands of friends, and be connected to the rest of the world.


However, pulling resources, holding arms, taking to the street as a way to overcome together what one cannot accomplish alone still holds, even more than before. There is an appropriate economy of scale to study, work, affect change, and resolve pressing issues. We rely on more than ourselves for everything that matters. Humans have relied on each other's strength, talent, and expertise throughout evolution, whether we hunt, gather, or code. Our cities have grown around shared spaces, from the street to the temple, the university, and congress. Sharing allows more opportunities for progress, but also conflict and now, of course, contagion. 


Now that sharing—cars, workspaces, living spaces, childcare, schools, eldercare—is problematized, is isolation a solution? Our studio will argue it is not. How do we come out of this better? By better, we mean allowing more opportunity for expression, beauty, wellness, efficiency, and a new kind of fluency. A fluency where each person can access what they need; and give back what they produce; where gender differences are attenuated, work, health, and leisure have room, one does what one is best at, and things get done more efficiently and at a higher level than ever before. Our view is that sharing in culture, commerce, and education is in itself of value. How can society maximize the efficiency of resources while maintaining choice and allowing individuation and freedom of expression? How can Architecture articulate these issues?


By definition, architecture is a proactive profession that imagines, plans, programs, and builds the future. This studio seeks to gain from asserting architecture's value. Our expertise is in the making of things. I will guide the studio so that each participant can claim their own values and vision in the last semester at GSAPP.


The studio's goal will be to advance ideas, linking East and West, past and future, theory and practice, colony, and diaspora, considering architecture design as a critical ingredient in value creation.


Reading: In a seminar format, the studio will read/analyze the following books and discuss the share-economy, the earnings of giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook, the emergence of cyber currencies, the balance between public and private, what thrives in private hands. 




  • Midterm Review is on February 11th.
  • Final Review is on April 15th

Course Summary:

Date Details Due