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New SSUDS Program Focuses Design Community on Reimagining Issues of Urban Sustainability and Living

The Stuckeman School is unveiling a new program called Stuckeman Sustainable Urban Density Studios (SSUDS), which will commence in spring 2018. Development of SSUDS has been spearheaded by Penn State professor of Architecture, Dan Willis, and will provide a structure for teaching, research, and creative work related to urban sustainability.

The program is an extension of Willis’ sense that “the design professions can make a larger positive impact on our environment by focusing on the issues of urban livability and affordability, than by designing individual buildings. In order to attract people back to the city, urban living, working, cultural, and recreation facilities – as well as the spaces within, between, and around them – must be reimagined.” Much of the content in SSUDS will be drawn from research that led to Willis’s two most recent books, Architecture and Energy (2013) and Energy Accounts (2016).

The core of SSUDS will be within the existing fall and spring ARCH and LARCH upper-level (grad and undergrad) Options Studios. Beginning fall 2018, SSUDS is envisioned as a two-semester sequence: (1) the master planning phase, and (2) the design phase.

The courses will provide a rare opportunity for students to design tall buildings with a focus on how they relate to the surrounding city, emphasizing livability, by elements such as green roofs, plant-filled atriums, court yards, recreation spaces, and plazas. The first portion of the program will be offered as an elective seminar in spring 2018 called: “Sustainability Through Density: Rethinking Tall Buildings and Urban Environments” (ARCH 497.005). It is open to LArch and Arch students. Emeritus Professor of Landscape Architecture Dan Jones will be assisting Professor Willis with the course.

Faculty from the Departments of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Architectural Engineering, as well as the Graphic Design program, are the primary contributors to SSUDS. The courses will include guest critics and instructors from leading professional design firms, including the offices of KPF, SOM, EYP, and SHoP in New York, and the Goettsch Partners and SCB in Chicago. The courses also anticipate the involvement of additional alumni, architectural engineers, structural engineers, architectural historians, real estate developers, urban planners, and other key research and practice leaders.

Willis sees the SSUDS program as a great opportunity to strengthen and connect the ever-growing design community, through collaboration, particularly with alumni. Willis says that “[he has] thirty years of students doing really cool stuff” and to “see [his] former students doing well, is the fun part about being a teacher.” Some alumni are already involved, including Lloyd Sigal, a partner at KPF, a New York firm responsible for Hudson Yards, the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States. Sigal has offered to take students on a tour of Hudson Yards, so they can learn the story of the development, first-hand. Also involved is Willis’ friend and former student, Bill Sharples, from SHoP, a popular firm based in New York City, responsible for projects such as the iconic Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. Willis hopes that by learning about the stunning and successful projects of former Penn State students, current students will gain inspiration for their own projects.

computer rendering of modern tall building