Future Cities Research Portfolio
At the TU Delft, each department is required to put forward what is referred to in general as a ‘Research Portfolio' - a document which sets out the areas of research interest and objectives for a particular research group. The intention of the Research Portfolio is to identify areas or topics of interest, the position as well as the intention of a program. This, for the purpose of both consolidating the research direction of the faculty and PhD candidates and providing directives for the teaching programs as well. Thus, the research areas put forth in the portfolio provides a sort of topic-centric cosmology for the departments entire program. The DSD Future Cities portfolio accordingly provides an overview of issues that can be further recognized in the Masters Thesis program, the PhD program, the DSD Platform as well as DSD publications.
The focus of the DSD has over the past several years turned to the complexity of the contemporary urban condition. Consequently, the DSD has developed a strategy, or a field of inquiry, in order to map out new means of approaching the city, which include but are not limited to the following: the complexity of the object of study; the complexity of the condition, or the state, of architectural knowledge; and, the necessary methodologies, both incumbent and innovative, with which to approach the former two. This problématique urbaine has been approached through investigations ranging from in depth historical studies - dealing with both a material and immaterial socio-cultural constructed past; theoretical considerations - interrogating both the specific and the general conditions by which objects and subjects are reflexively produced and, at times, spontaneously emerge; to urban and architecture research - investigating both case study objects and over arching methodologies by which the very modes of thinking and producing the city and its objects become possible.
For architects, historians, theoreticians, urbanist, and structural designers, the object of study - whether at a global socio-cultural or geo-economic scale, or an intimate scale of building materialization or construction detail- is the contemporary urban condition; the problématique, in other words, presumes the city. The city as a set of inter-related conditions, at once facilitating and limiting. This complexity is in some part due to the nature of the information age - we simply have increased access to knowledge and are thus confronted with difficulties and epistemological composites heretofore unperceived. Yet, on the other hand, precisely these very same technologies present the challenge and possibility to both grasp and represent our world in unprecedented ways.
The DSD believes that our design instruments require serious mutations in order even to see, to understand, the present state of affairs. Global connections function at an incommensurable speed compared to those of only a half-century ago. Globalization operates at a much larger scale than traditional imperialist, or ‘empire', territorial dominions might have ever conceived; today few people have been left unaffected. Furthermore, not merely the scale, but the scope of global interconnectedness - what Saskia Sassen has come to refer to as ‘infrastructures' - has greatly extended; it is multi-dimensional, infiltrating and transforming economic, technological, political, juridical, social and cultural domains previously held structurally independent, and more fundamentally, territorially sovereign. The DSD understands that the dynamic and often unmediated interactions among numerous global actors create new levels of complexity for the relationships between policy, research and design practice. The notion of agency, once primarily a socio-political concern has become imbricated in all forms of cultural and economic practices; architecture and urbanism will become sorely ineffective if they turn a blind eye to this new cosmology.
The DSD FUTURE CITIES portfolio consists of two programs: Urban Asymmetries (UA), and Architecture Thinking (AT). The research domains addressed in these programs are two-fold: First, with respects to urbanism, to engage the current and urgent problems of the city - the problématique urbane. Second, with respects to architecture, to address the technologies and means of production that most impact leading and vital debates in both theory and practice today. This two-fold aspect takes on another turn as well, as implicit in the choice of the program title "Future Cities" is an understanding that not only will architects and urbanist continue to be confronted with questions of advanced technology, digitalization (of both, the image and information); but also with other more problematic issues such as environmental, political, economic, cultural and social transformations within a rapidly changing urban world in which temporality no longer conveys the future as a far-away state but as an urgent concern of the here and now - the future of the city. Research in the DSD is both theoretically and design driven.