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News > Advancing Architecture and Design > Highlighting Environmental, Socio-Cultural , Urban Design and Creative Making Design Research

Highlighting Environmental, Socio-Cultural , Urban Design and Creative Making Design Research

Department of Architecture and Environmental Design | Tyler School of Art and Architecture
Sonja Bijelic-Creative Making
Sonja Bijelic-Creative Making

Research carried out by the Architecture and Environmental Design Faculty in the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University, is organized into four primary focus areas: Environmental Research, Socio-Cultural Research, Urban Design and Creative Making. Each focus area is forward-focused, addressing areas of design that will have positive impact on student work and their future in built environment design practices.  

The impact of faculty research is often seen in student work, especially in an applied manner in design studios. Professor Jeff Richard’s 4th year studio this spring is one that spans multiple areas of design research focus. Locate in FDR park, students carried out socio-economic and environmental research at the urban design scale to investigate the park as the future home for the Southeast Asian Market. Student projects considered the needs of the community of refugees and immigrants in spatial terms – designing a cultural hub for social gatherings, the sharing of ethnic cuisines and creating business opportunities for market vendors.   

Also this spring, Dr. Jeffrey Doshna, AICP, guided collaborative groups of graduate students in the City and Regional Planning program in research and design projects located in Philadelphia. One group addressed the current issues surrounding Philadelphia’s Streetery Program. The research documented the tactical urbanism strategies used during the pandemic and how it led to a program for permanent outdoor dining. In partnership with the Overbrook Environmental Education Center, students developed a plan based on research about current strategies to activate vacant lots to extend the center’s service area. In collaboration with the DVRPC, students researched current best practices for setting appropriate speed limits in urban settings. Their work addressed ways to reduce the rates of deaths and serious injuries and focused on disadvantaged Philadelphia neighborhoods.   

Research about the current and future state of our design context is also addressed in seminar courses. In the spring of 2023, Professor Jeffrey Nesbit’s students looked at sites of industry and waste, that used Professor Nesbit’s seminar topics about built infrastructures as a starting point for their own investigations. Anthony Landi’s research addresses surface mining, refineries and pipelines, and how they impact human settlement including heritage sites of Native Americans. Alyssa Stazione’s research addresses the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and its relationship to human consumption, the need for comprehensive waste management at a global scale to impact environmental change. Recent student work can be accessed at

Environmental Research 

A broad reflective area of inquiry by Professor Jeffrey Nesbit entitled Technical Lands looks at the vast array of sites occupied by technically-focused activities, many of them governmental or quasi-governmental entities – airports and spaceports, disaster exclusion and demilitarized zones, prison yard, industrial extraction sites, to name a few. Professor Nesbit’s research is included in a current book: Technical Lands: A Critical Primer (Jovis, 2023) 

Drs. Sasha Eisenman and Josh Caplan work as horticulture experts in partnership with built environment professionals. In a multi-year project in collaboration with faculty from engineering and environmental science at Temple and Villanova, AECOM, PennDOT and others, they are investigating factors affecting plant and soil health in green stormwater runoff infrastructure along the I-95 corridor in Philadelphia. Another project, with Olin Labs and collaborators from other universities, funded by the US EPA and the William Penn Foundation, explores the viability of incorporating crushed recycled glass into engineering soil media as a means of decreasing municipal waste stream and reliance on mined sands. Other collaborations, funded through a variety of sources, address impacts of climate change: post-tornado plant growth and behavior and water use strategies for urban trees in high heat conditions. 

Socio-cultural Research 

Under the umbrella of the Urban Workshop, Professors Sally Harrison and Ulysses Sean Vance have joined together to work on an applied design research project in partnership with Variety – the Children’s Charity of Delaware Valley. The work aligns with Professor Harrison’s expertise in social impact design and Professor Vance’s expertise in universal and inclusive design and is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and matching funds from Tyler School of Art and Architecture. Their work is focused on the design of an innovative Living-Learning Cabin Prototype for children and young adults with diverse physical and cognitive disabilities and is situated at Variety’s campus in Worcester, PA. Participants in the project include Farzaneh Tahmasbi, a May 2023 graduate of the Master of Architecture program, and other student researchers.  

Professor Fauzia Sadiq Garcia is working in collaboration with Chris Chavez, Deputy Policy Director at the Coalition for Clean Air and Diana Jih, a Landscape Architect at the Olin Partnership, on a project focused on environmental justice for communities that are adjacent to oil refineries. The design research and proposals are focused on the expected decommissioning of oil refineries due to the federal government’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, and will result in envisioning new uses for the refinery lands that benefit disenfranchised communities that surround the sites.  

Urban Design Research 

Professor Pablo Meninato is working on comprehensive survey of design interventions in informal settlements across Latin America, in partnership with an academic partner, Gregory Marinic from the University of Cincinnati. The multi-year project addresses a number of cities and Latin American countries. The first publication of the work has resulted in a co-authored book, Informality and the City. Theories, Actions, Interventions (Springer, 2022). 

Professor Ryan Devlin researches the informal use of public space, with specific focus on street vendors in US cities. Conceptualizing informal practice as a form of "communication by doing" Ryan has carried out community engaged scholarship working with informal fruit vendors in New York City, as well as researched and written about conflicts over public space and vending in immigrant neighborhoods such as Flushing and Corona in Queens, New York City. He has also collaborated with international NGOs, such as Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) on comparative studies of informal workers in public space across the Global North and South.  

Creative Making 

As part of her design, construction and development practice, Professor Sonja Bijelic investigates use of materials in her built work. A current investigation explores the reuse of glass tiles and MDF panels in a built work, used in a manner that tells a story of the environmental benefits of recycling and reuse of materials. A parallel benefit of the research is to understand how building projects can strive to limit the waste from a construction site.  

Professor Kate Wingert-Playdon’s research focuses on design and construction histories derived from archival sources, photo surveys of building processes, and construction process and job reports and results in monographs that read as public histories. Her current work is focused on La Fonda in Santa Fe, NM, designed and built through a collaboration in the 1920s by John Gaw Meem, Mary Colter and others. The research is focused on uncovering the contributions of participants to meet the cultural and aspirational goals of the architecture. 

Selected Temple University Faculty and Student Research - May 2023

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