John K. Branner Fellowship

John K. Branner Traveling Fellowship sponsored/awarded by the Department of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.

John K. Branner Fellowship


The Proposal

The Untested City: unprecedented urbanism and the performance of new public space


The Experiment

Today, entire new cities are designed and built virtually overnight. This is a recent global phenomenon; China alone plans to build 400 new cities within 30 years. Fueled by economic growth and urban migration, these ‘instant cities’ have become vast fields of urban experimentation, the impetus behind unprecedented scales and rates of architectural development and public infrastructure. However, the imperative for haste in construction preempts even a moment’s reflection on the quantity of outcome. The realities of these untested environments impact personal space and public life in the city, and the effects are best revealed, although notably overlooked, in the performance of public space.

As the gauge of urban success and failure, public space warrants specific evaluation. In this historically unique context, it requires an objective assessment based on the rethinking of established criteria.
This boom in city building – which shows no sign of slowing – is happening as a series of massive but currently scattered experiments. I propose to kickstart the feedback loop to influence the design of future cities with an examination of public spaces in significant new developments around the world.

Contemporary Context

When compared with the traditional city, the new city does not retain the same qualities and structured strata. Urban critiques typically decry the lack of public space in new cities and limit analysis to issues of iconography, speculation, and privatization. Cities are emerging so rapidly there has yet to be in-depth, ground-level documentation to assess the particularities of each situation. At the same time, Almere’s City Center negotiates pedestrian, vehicular, and transit realms through multiplied grounds, and Shenzhen’s village-in-the-city phenomena produce crowded, spontaneous alleyways. A closer examination might reveal that unheralded public space – or a new species of surrogate public space – serves traditional urban needs in unprecedented form.

The Proposal

This Branner Traveling Fellowship proposes the cross-comparison of new cities through the lens of public space. I seek to understand how public landscapes have been influenced by existing conditions, how they are affected by the pace of development, and how they begin to shape the fabric of the emerging city. I intend to study the disparate pieces that form a system within the city and how the performance and co-existence of these zones could inform future implementations that are both responsive and multi-scalar.


The search for public space will begin by looking at significant examples of NODES, open spaces, (ranging in scale from the multiplied grounds of Almere’s City Center to a neighborhood park in Kazakhstan) and CORRIDORS, the networks that feed and sustain them ( the system of air-conditioned bus stops in Dubai to the linear park-covered highway of Leidse Rijn). It will transcend spaces of mere public access and prioritize spaces that accommodate multiple uses and sections of society.  Although new spaces are often larger than those of traditional cities, the scale of human interaction has not changed; while conscious of the presence of competing scales, the search is ultimately intended to remain open to the discovery of new types.  Criteria for evaluating public space is established and well-documented. Analysis will adapt this defined apparatus by virtue of what is happening on the ground. Two distinct new city models – the TABULA RASA (planned city), and the SPROUTING (unregulated city) will be used to analyze public space.


Itinerary [2009]

SpainJan. 28



China Mar. 23 – Apr. 10

Korea | JapanApril -May

Berkeleyend of May

VirginiaJune 3-8

Boston | New York City – June 30 – July 14

HelsinkiJuly 15

CopenhagenJuly 23

FranceJuly 29


Greece | Belgium | Netherlands – September

Italy | USA – Oct.

China | Kazakhstan – Nov.

China | Malaysia – Dec.


Listening to:

Bridge School Benefit, Incessant beeping from painting crew machinery outside office, and intermittent office ping pong from Ammunition

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