Justice + Community Design

These courses focus explicitly on bringing students in contact with communities to understand the real problems they face. As such, they establish real connections with community partners, allowing students to work with current issues.


Housing Policy + Practice

Fall 2019

Where you live determines many aspects about your health, education, representation, and level of exposure to hazards. This course examines housing’s effects on the distribution of injustice and risk in the built environment. As such, it introduces basic concepts in the fields of housing and community development, with an eye towards the major issues facing these fields. 

Housing is a major determiner of access to education and exposure to hazards. This course examines housing’s impacts on the distribution of injustice and risk in the built environment, by discussing basic ideas in housing and community development. As such, this course has the following learning objectives:

  1. Examine basic concepts in housing and community development;

  2. Review the most pressing contemporary issues facing housing and community development;

  3. Study the current grassroots movements calling for housing justice; and

  4. Learn about key housing issues across the Denver Metropolitan region and Colorado.



Colonia-Based Green Infrastructure

Spring 2020

Colonias are ultra-poor communities marked by a lack of basic utilities and services located on the United States (U.S.) side of the U.S./Mexico border. Specifically, in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, colonias frequently experience flooding, even in light rains, an issue at the intersection of its sub-tropical climate intersects with the South Texas plains. Colonias flood more than surrounding developments illegal or extralegal construction, out of former farmlands, leading to more intense flooding as these lands were specifically terraformed to retain water. These problems are further exacerbated during extreme weather events, like hurricanes. Following Hurricane Dolly in July 2008, which made landfall in the Rio Grande Valley, the colonias experienced flooding for nearly half a year.

Building upon colonia activism following Hurricane Dolly, this studio will research the scope of flooding issues in the Rio Grande Valley and propose planning-based and design-based options to several colonia-based organizations. As such, this studio contains a major community engagement component with potential real-life applications, as we report to the following organizations:

  • buildingcommunityWORKSHOP (BC or bcWORKSHOP): primary contact

  • Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (TxLIHIS or Texas Housers)

  • La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE)

These groups have been actively pursuing policy changes in planning to allow for green infrastructure projects and resources in Rio Grande Valley colonias. However, “green infrastructure” has been increasingly criticized for its use in gentrifying low-income and highly-vulnerable communities.

Ultimately, the goal of this studio is to critically examine how flood prevention and green infrastructure can be introduced into Rio Grande Valley colonias to the benefit of existing residents.