Design of cities is changing. New urban design methods including the use of mobile phones, Grasshopper / GIS and low-cost Arduino microprocessors are changing the way architects understand cities.

This seven-week summer urban design program in the Catalan city of Barcelona, Spain offers students insight into the measurement and design of urban relationships. In-situ work allows the integration of both existing and newly acquired datasets using architectural scaled software Rhino Grasshopper, associated plugins and custom scripts. These new design methods are supported by interaction with interdisciplinary local experts in planning, urban ecology, architecture, robotic engineering, transit and landscape architecture. Cultural context is provided via travel to the Andalucian city of Granada to study different neighborhood morphologies and the Alhambra. In Barcelona students live, work and do research in the pedestrian friendly waterfront neighborhood of Poblenou.


Barcelona is a world city dedicated to both urban design and the progressive application of computing to affect the everyday lives of people. The trust of the Catalan people in collective values is physically evident in the way they approach public space. Each year the city hosts the Mobile World Expo and Smart City Expo World Conference. The city government of Barcelona extends its status as a place of world heritage for two millennia with contemporary the innovative application of new technologies to measure the city.

Urban design in Barcelona is studied within three urban structure types: 1) the maritime metropolis planning of the 13th century gothic quarter and surrounding autonomous towns; 2) Ildefonse Cerda’s 19th century chamfered example grid extending the city ten fold and 3) contemporary planning strategies from the 1992 Olympic Games through the recent 22@ information activities district. Today the city integrates ideas of the autonomous village, the structure of the grid and contemporary planning into new ideas using smart city technology to plan pedestrian islands of ‘self-sufficient cities’ known as Superilles, or Super Blocks. This location provides an ideal opportunity to find current leaders of urban design such as urban ecologist Salvador Rueda and city urbanist Vicente Guallart, and visit the urban architectural works of Enric Miralles and Carme Pinos, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, RCR Arquitectes and other local architects. Student housing and work spaces are located within fifteen minutes from the city center in a previously autonomous fishing village of Catalan culture and within close proximity to the 22@ innovation activities district research area.

The Barcelona program is housed in a 19th century modernisme and contemporary housing buildings on streets connecting to the pedestrian Rambla de Poblenou and within walking distance to the Poblenou public food market and smaller shops. Class meets five days a week typically including a weekly daytrip. Student accommodations are in apartments of single and double bedrooms with kitchen facilities and living rooms with internet access. Apartments are located close to the Mediterranean Sea. Complete lunchtime meals are often attended together on-site in study neighborhoods at discounted fixed prices at some of the enjoyable restaurants in Barcelona and Granada. Additional facilities and opportunities of student interaction may be available this year via a teaching and research relationship with the Universidad Politecnica de Catalunya and the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalunya.