Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 3 hours / session

Course Description and Objectives

The Springfield Studio is a practicum design course that focuses on the physical, programmatic, and social renewal of an urban community in Springfield, Massachusetts by combining classroom work with an applied class project. The course content covers the areas of physical design/urban design and the related analysis and planning tools used to understand and assess urban conditions from a design and development perspective. Urban design issues are investigated in the context of social and economic challenges within the community. Thus, the course has dual goals:

  1. analyze physical conditions in the community, assess community need, propose physical design interventions; and
  2. assess community capacity and programmatic needs.

The ultimate goal is to explore the integration of social, programmatic and physical development interventions in ways that reinforce community revitalization efforts, and to apply this knowledge through the development of a formal neighborhood revitalization plan that addresses community needs.

Overview of the Client and Project Focus

The spring 2004 class will work with the community in the North End of Springfield, Massachusetts to formulate a physical plan to create a community "center" and to reconnect two parts of the neighborhood that have been divided by the elevated Interstate 91. The client for the class project is the North End Campus Committee.

The North End of Springfield is a predominantly Puerto Rican community that is faced with a number of problems including high rates of asthma, HIV and Hepatitis B. Other problems and complications in the neighborhood are environmental, as it is home to a number of former industrial sites and is located adjacent to the Connecticut River. A number of institutional assets exist in the community, including social service agencies, schools, a youth center, a hospital, and a health clinic. The North End Campus Committee represents a collaboration effort between these various groups with the understanding that by working together they can use their existing resources to improve their community.

One goal of the Campus Committee had initially been to link some of the major resource centers, (e.g. the schools) to create a coherent campus that would programmatically function as a community center for all North End residents. Because of the pressing needs facing all agencies that make up the Campus Committee, a concerted effort to rethink the campus has not been feasible. This practicum represents an opportunity to help the Committee reframe their problem and present possible design approaches to developing a community campus.

As part of the class students will work in design on multiple levels including physical (built environment), process (building the public sphere), and programmatic (activities that strengthen the community).

The project is a collaboration between DUSP, the MIT Center for Reflective Community Practice (CRCP), the North End Campus Committee, and the North End Outreach Network (NEON).

Class Requirements

Most classes will consist of a short lecture on the daily/weekly topic, individual/group work time, and review/wrap up time. The lectures and discussions will introduce key concepts relevant to the weekly assignments. The instructors will conduct informal reviews that will include an opportunity for reflection with individual students (or groups) on a weekly basis. Periodically, the class will pin-up all its work and participate in a larger review and group reflection process. Ongoing reflection exercises will be completed and recorded in individual journals and group discussions address issues facing the class as they assume the role of practitioners in Springfield.

We expect students to engage with the North End community in Springfield. One Friday each month, leaving on Thursday night, will be set aside for class trips that the Department will subsidize. The CRCP also employs a liaison who commutes to Springfield each week and whom students should coordinate with for any additional fieldwork.

It is essential that all reading be completed in advance of each class. This course will build on previous work completed in Springfield by MIT classes and individual researchers under the direction of the CRCP. The CRCP has developed an extensive archive of resources on the community, including:

  • Maps
  • Histories
  • Census Data
  • GIS Project Data
  • Neighborhood Plans
  • Community Knowledge
  • Novels - background on Puerto Rican urban communities
  • Theoretical writings on Urban Design and Community Development

These resources will be available to students as needed.


This class is a studio. Class requirements include extensive reading, active class participation, and involvement and contribution to the project. Your active participation and contribution to class discussions are worth 20% of your grade, attendance is worth 10%, and the remaining 70% of your grade will be based on your group project developing a master plan for a campus center or other type of community center for the North End of Springfield. In a nutshell:

Attendance 10%
Active Participation and Contribution to Class Discussions 20%
Group Project 70%

Students' work will be evaluated informally on a weekly basis, and more formally through pin-ups every two or three weeks. During these more formal pin-ups, students will be given feedback on their efforts to process and integrate the information they have received and will be expected to reflect on how their work is related to their process of identity construction.

When final master plans are completed, team members will be asked to evaluate and grade each member of the group (including themselves) based on individuals' active participation in the project and contribution to the team. These evaluations will be considered during the grading process.