Sea level rise is impacting cities worldwide. Stefan Al and his team of researchers are creating a resource for communities investing in flood management infrastructure: Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise is a graphic report, cataloguing best practices in building resiliency. In opposition to standard engineering solutions, this project argues for approaches that are nature-based, integrated with the public realm, and sensitive to local conditions and the community.
Hong Kong is the 21st century paradigmatic capital of consumerism. Of all places, it has the densest and tallest concentration of malls, reaching tens of stories. Hong Kong’s malls are also the most visited, sandwiched between subways and skyscrapers. These mall complexes have become cities in and of themselves, accommodating tens of thousands of people who live, work and play within a single structure.
Mall City features Hong Kong as a unique rendering of an advanced consumer society. Retail space has come a long way since the 19th century covered passages of Paris, which once awed the bourgeoisie with glass roofs and gaslights. It has morphed from the arcade to the department store, and from the mall into the “mall city”- where “expresscalators” crisscross mesmerizing atriums. Mall City editor Stefan Al and contributors Cecilia Chu and Stan Lai will explore the effects of this development in Hong Kong as well as architecture, city planning, culture and urban life.
More information: Asia Society
This year's urban design studio of Penn's Master in City Planning program, led by Professor Stefan Al, focused on canal redevelopment in the historic city of Suzhou and new development in the small city of Changshu, both in China. These two cities are characterized by their historic canals and gardens that were once integral to their economic and urban development, yet these canals have rapidly disappeared as water transportation became obsolete and new urban growth was directed outside of their historic centers.
The studio developed models for the redevelopment of Suzhou’s and Changshu’s inner city canals. It aimed to improve the public realm and upgrade the canals through culturally sensitive urban development, environmental remediation, and sustainable transportation.
Stefan Al and renowned landscape architect Jerry van Eyck have collaborated on a Las Vegas exhibit at the Van Abbemuseum in Einhoven, The Netherlands. The display is part of Who Owns The Street?, a reference to the legendary 1972 exhibit The Street, which questioned the changing nature of public space.
The exhibit features Ed Ruscha-style elevations of the Strip done by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in 1968, compared to 2015, composed by Al's team. It also includes a video of a drive-through experience in 1972, versus one today. Plus it features Van Eyck's design for the first park on the Las Vegas Strip.
The exhibit will last from 20 February 2016 until 30 April 2017.
More information: Van Abbemuseum
Stefan Al has been elected the 2016 Scholar-in-Residence at the Neon Museum. On Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m., he will deliver a presentation entitled, “Bigger, Better and Brighter: The Evolution of Las Vegas Signs,” at the Marjorie Barrick Museum Auditorium at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
He will discuss how the cutthroat competition between casinos, an unlikely source of architectural innovation, helped the Las Vegas Strip become the breeding ground of unprecedented sign design evolution. In the 1960s, signs transformed from a pole and a box to 20-story-tall structures encompassing miles of neon. Whereas in the 1990s, signs became replicas of iconic European monuments, including a full-size copy of the Bellagio bell tower and a half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower. Today’s new signs include LED video screens as high as a skyscraper.
More information: Vegas News
On December 8, Stefan Al will discuss his latest book, Villages in the City: A Guide to South China’s Informal Settlements. This book about informal urbanism, named by Architectural Record as “one of the best,” and "a fabulous piece of architecture and design graphica," argues for the value of urban villages as places. They offer an important, affordable, and well-located entry point for migrants into the city as well as vital mixed-use, spatially diverse, and pedestrian-oriented alternative to the prevailing monotonous modernist-planning paradigm in China. Yet, most of these urban villages are on the brink of destruction.
This event is co-sponsored by the following Penn partners: Penn Institute for Urban Research; Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, School of Arts and Sciences; Department of City and Regional Planning, School of Design; Mellon Humanities, Urbanism, Design (H+U+D) Initiative; and Perry World House. This event is free and open to the public. Registration required.
More information: Penn IUR website
Penn’s Office of the Vice Provost for Research has awarded Stefan Al a competitive grant from the University Research Foundation (URF). Al will analyze existing high-density urban blocks in order to propose urban design guidelines to shape rapidly developing Asian cities in a sustainable way. His proposal, Sustainable Urban Form: A Comparative Analysis of Asian High-Density Blocks, looks at how a deeper understanding of urban form can contribute to creating sustainable cities that promote a high quality of life, equitable public realm, and optimal environmental performance.
More information: PennDesign website
Architectural Record named Villages in the City “one of the best” books on informal urbanism, and “a fabulous piece of architecture and design graphica... The book succeeds by investigating and advocating for the informal without fetishizing it.” Read the full review here
Stefan Al will give an expert talk at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations headquarters in New York on July 7th. The topic of his talk is "Land use efficiency and compact city design in sustainable urban development." The event is organized by the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD) and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). It is supported by the following organizations: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan; Ministry of the Environment of Japan; City of Kitakyushu; Toyota City; Ministry of Transportation of Indonesia; United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT); and Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).
More Information: UN Website
After 30,000 students registered for the class in 2013, Gary Hack, Jonathan Barnett and Stefan Al will be re-offering Designing Cities. This free online course explores visionary and practical concepts of city design and planning, past and present, and how design can address such looming challenges as urban population growth, climate change and rising sea levels. Participants will be encouraged to make proposals for city design and development, starting with their own immediate environment. The course starts September 14.
More information: Coursera website