Making Urban Work
a hybrid graduate studio/seminar taught at UCLA

Technological and global connectivity has restructured the political economy, radically altering the ways in which work can be organized, sited, and scheduled. One effect of this connectivity has been to detach work from its historically place-specific and time-specific conditions, so that the office building can invade the café, the airport, the park, and the home, where atmosphere is emphasized over infrastructure. Hyper-mediated, geographically liberated office work challenges the very material conditions of building, with implications for architects, urban planners, urban designers, and developers as they attempt to translate new flexible and global parameters into physical realities. Despite popular attention to trends of recent decades (e.g. telecommuting, complex collaboration, 24/7 work schedules, etc.) the newly interconnected dimensions of work remain speculative and under-theorized when it comes to the built environment. The emerging ecologies and economies of work have the power to transform the central business district, urban land use, the office building, site design, organizational structure, desk configurations, and as such, the space of everyday life. This course considers “office work” as a dynamic urban system, mobilizing the term “urban” as the unbounded site of global, mobile, and interconnected flow of knowledge and labor. 

Through a hybrid seminar/studio format, the course will examine innovative work environments for downtown Los Angeles. Students from architecture, planning, and real estate are invited to collaborate on projects that build upon research about changes in the binary oppositions of home and office, public and private, downtown and suburb. Readings and seminar discussions will be augmented by hands-on design/planning/development projects undertaken by student teams. The course will be enriched by more than a dozen experts from relevant fields, who will contribute to students’ efforts in two all-day workshops during the term (see course schedule). Final projects will be publicly reviewed at the end of the term, when some teams will have the option to further develop their projects with funding and expert consultations over several weeks at the start of the summer.