UdN goes Philadelphia

Reflections on Summer 2010 at the UdN
The following lines are parts of the Reflection Paper made by Meghan McAllister. She studies Growth & Structure of Cities at the Haverford College nearby Philadephia. Meghan McAllister took part at various projects at the curriculum of the UdN as an exchange student during the summer of 2010.

The projects at the UdN were entirely different than any that I experienced in other academic programs. One significant difference was the way in which the neighborhood was truly treated as a classroom. In most classes (…) the neighborhood was treated as outside specimen that is discussed and analyzed thoroughly, but approached carefully and cautiously. In this more traditional model of education, my coursework consisted of 80-90% time in the classroom or library and about 10-20% in the field. My summer project at the UdN was part of an Intercultural Practice urban design course at the HCU. The students, professors and other collaborators met for 1-2 hours each week in the classroom to discuss and coordinate the project. However, this made up only about 20% of the total time that we worked together on the project. At least 80% of our time was spent at the UdN or other various parts of the UdN’s neighborhood, Wilhelmsburg. This experience was valuable in that it broke down a mental barrier between academic work and community action.

The soccer tournament was essentially a series of diagrams that provoked the community to think of soccer in a different way, while also sparking them to come together through the universal language of the game. The diagrams allowed the fields to become new interstitial spaces that were neutral, yet very much physically part of the Wilhelmsburg landscape. Many may think that the tournament could not be design because it did not have a concrete and tangible product. However, the soccer tournament’s minimal physical product allowed for the diagram and social purpose of the design to not lose any meaning at all along the way, as often happens when incorporated into large physical infrastructure. The minimal constructed product facilitated the users to interact directly with the essence of the design solution: the participants consciously played out the diagrams within their urban landscape. Lastly, the lack of a constructed product allowed the solution to be local and perpetual. These new fields and rules were comical, fun and visually striking in order to attract attention and bring together the widespread and diverse Wilhelmsburg community with something that was loved and understood by all: Fußball.

To explore how design process can be used to address social issues: The projects at the UdN (Universität der Nachbarschaften) will bring a new perspective to many urban issues (…) such as urban regeneration, gentrification and immigration. This new perspective demonstrates how to use design process, as well as other hands-on activities, to explore solutions. These methods will be a satisfying and eye-opening merge between design, architectural and urban history, and the social sciences for Growth and Structure of Cities majors who study both the physical and the social processes of cities. The task of interacting directly with a larger urban community will be challenging but rewarding and will most likely deepen perspective (…).