Economic development is now directly linked to quality of life issues and the probability of talented professionals moving into a region. The Urban Laboratory in the School of Architecture prepares students to focus on these issues.
Imagine a community where within a ten-minute walking distance you find every aspect of small town life: housing, shopping, work, recreation, public open space, education, and so on. Many of the communities we would like to live in have this characteristic—the heritage of pre-automobile days when people walked to work and neighborhoods were of pedestrian scale.
The Urban Lab is an interdisciplinary urban design course led by distinguished practitioners and scholars spanning the fields of architecture, urban design, planning and policy. It demonstrates the University's commitment to exploring new creative directions for the Pittsburgh metropolitan area and cities around the world. The Pittsburgh region is an ideal "laboratory" where students encounter the major issues that face cities in the nation and internationally.
Through its programs, the Urban Lab provides interdisciplinary education in hands-on "real life" contexts. It engages public agencies, elected officials, the private investment sector, and citizens, to jointly research and find solutions to community issues.
The Urban Laboratory was founded in 1963 by distinguished urban designer and scholar, David Lewis, FAIA. The program emerged from a period of heightened social activism within design professions and awareness of the failures of top-down urban planning projects of the time. It was one of the first initiatives by any university to enfranchise local citizens by initiating new public forums for collectively addressing urban design.
Through its programs, the Urban Lab provides interdisciplinary education in hands-on "real life" contexts. It engages public agencies, elected officials, the private investment sector, and citizens, to jointly research community issues. Lacking the contractual constraints of professional consultants, student teams aided by faculty are encouraged to explore innovative avenues of policy and solution. Through the work of the Urban Lab over the past decade a number of communities in the Pittsburgh metropolitan region have benefited from its interdisciplinary urban design recommendations.
The Urban Lab partners with the John H. Heinz School of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon, and the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford University. Through these collaborations, the Urban Lab has become a vehicle for debating international issues of urban economics, physical change and sustainability. With the experience gained from the Urban Lab, our graduates go on to become leaders in government offices, public agencies and major urban design firms around the world.
Building on the success of the Urban Laboratory, the Remaking Cities Institute (RCI) was established in 2006 to expand the regional and global impact of urban design research at Carnegie Mellon. The Remaking Cities Institute fosters collaboration between academia and professionals in the public and private sectors. RCI works to expand the multidisciplanary efforts of the Urban Laboratory with the ultimate goal of sustainability and excellence in urban design.