Putting classroom and research experience to use in actual settings while still in the academic atmosphere tempers and strengthens professional education. Fieldwork or studio courses are part laboratory--to explore possibilities--and part "real world"--where an existing issue is followed through the planning process; that is, defining the problem, structuring and evaluating approaches, developing realistic recommendations, and presenting the results. Projects are selected on the basis of the importance of the problems they present as well as for the educational opportunities they provide.
An important component in all studio courses is effective presentation to the client. In addition to speaking skills, students learn how to effectively use a variety of computer graphic tools, including PowerPoint, Director, and Photoshop. Many of the studios also make use of geographic information system programs for spatial analysis and Autocad for drawing and design.
Consultation with the client clearly establishes the issues, the time frame and other constraints (technological, fiscal, social, political, etc.), and the objectives of the work. After reviewing background information supplied by the client, the group organizes its approach and assigns tasks, concentrating initially on collection of appropriate data. Then, with particular attention to constraints identified in the first step, students analyze their information to clarify the situation, the relationships, the problems, and the opportunities.
Alternative recommendations to account for all of the findings are developed and discussed with the client for reactions and comments. The final report, appropriately modified to reflect these comments and supported by suitable graphics and other necessary materials, is presented to the client and is exhibited in whatever forum is applicable to the problem and the project.
Recent studios have included:
- Seaside Heights, NJ, revitalization plan;
- transit-oriented development in Newark, NJ
- redevelopment of the Brooklyn, NY, waterfront (with NYU, YALE, CUNY, NJIT);
- redevelopment recommendations and strategies for Paterson and Bayonne, NJ; and Brooklyn, NY;
- plan for historic preservation in selected neighborhoods in New Brunswick, NJ;
- urban design analysis and plan for the College Avenue Campus, Rutgers University-New Brunswick;
- community development studios in Newark and Trenton, NJ;
- design for transit-friendly communities for Plainfield and Linden, NJ, station areas;
- sustainability plans for Highland Park and West Windsor, NJ; and
- brownfields plan for Hillsborough, NJ.
All of these projects required students to make oral and graphic presentations to public officials and to write a collaborative final report. View studios here.