Master of Urban Design Thesis


Studio leaders: David Mah & Leire Asensio Villoria

Recent events have given many of us an ominous preview of the vicious disruptions that climate change will bring to our lives. Different studies have outlined the likelihood of Melbourne becoming subject to an even more volatile climate. Weather and resource emergencies are likely to become the new normal. More frequent and severe storms with projections for the consequences of sea level rise are expected to dramatically transform our environment. Projections for the regular flooding and even disappearance of some of the city’s established neighborhoods and communities are potential scenarios for Melbourne’s future under climate change. This studio will focus on addressing the looming urban risks related to water. This will be caused by its acute overabundance during what are projected to be increasingly severe storm events. Other risks also relate to its counterpoint, where Melbourne is expected to experience water scarcity. Do the conventions and the preoccupations of contemporary architectural and urban design practice still hold water in light of this anticipated devastation? Established disciplinary knowledge and professional practice have been largely informed by the presumption of an environment with a stabilized climate. But given the different scenarios put forth by climate change, shouldn’t the design community acclimatize itself to a new set of contexts, concerns and perhaps opportunities? Is it responsible to follow conventions and established practice when these have been predicated on a very different reality? If we are to face these challenges head on, can we be “radical enough”? The studio is part of the Arc-DR3 Initiative (The Architecture and Urban Design for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Initiative). This international initiative is coordinated by The International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS) at Tohoku University in Japan, xLAB at The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Miraikan, The National Museum of Emerging Science and Technology of Japan. This studio will be one of the University of Melbourne’s contributions to this larger project. Other participating schools from the Association of Pacific Rim Universities include UCLA, UC Berkley, Tsinghua University, National University of Singapore and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

Studio Leaders

Leire is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne's School of Design. She has taught at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design from 2010 to 2017, at London’s Architectural Association School of Architecture, Graduate School Landscape Urbanism Programme from 2004 to 2007 and at Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning from 2006 till 2010.

David Mah is a senior lecturer in urban design and architecture at the University of Melbourne’s school of design. David was a lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (2010-2017). He has also taught design and theory at Cornell University’s department of architecture (2007-2010) and Landscape Urbanism at the graduate design school of the Architectural Association in London (2004-2007).

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