“Berkeley in Kuwait” Lecture Series 2016-2017

The lecture series, as its title suggests, takes faculty from UC Berkeley to Kuwait to give one-day lectures at Kuwait University. The first two faculty invited were Professor Rene Davids and Professor Kyle Steinfeld from the College of Environmental Design. Below are the titles and descriptions of their lectures and backgrounds.

Professor Rene Davids, Fall 2016

“ Urban Acupuncture: Creating the Structure for Sequential Urban Interventions”

Urban acupuncture is a set of actions systematically planned over time to achieve an improvement in particular aspects of urban life through site-specific responses to social needs. Like the traditional Chinese medicine which uses thin needles inserted into the body to promote the natural self-healing process, the strategy is intended to improve urban functions with small-scale but socially catalytic interventions in the design of cities. Since it was put into practice by renowned architect and urban planner Jaime Lerner as mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, the theory has become popular in developing countries and cities with struggling economies where even small investments or temporary installations have the potential to improve the civic environment. Typically cited examples of urban acupuncture include individual buildings on available sites which have played a major role in revitalizing the surrounding neighborhood, but traditional acupuncture presumes a flow of energy called "qi" along specific pathways, or meridians, throughout the body which if blocked can lead to pain, malfunction, or illness, and is released by stimulating the body’s natural healing response. This lecture will present built and speculative work of architects and urban planners including Davids Killory Architecture to argue that for urban acupuncture to become an effective long term strategy which can succeed at the level of the city as a whole, it should be based on existing or newly created networks such as rivers, creeks, shorelines, and other topographical features, as well as transit systems, pedestrian and bicycle paths, and transportation corridors.

Rene Davids, FAIA, is Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at Berkeley and a principal of Davids Killory Architecture. The firm’s work has been published internationally and honored with numerous awards including two Presidential Design Awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, three AIA National Honor Awards, and three Progressive Architecture Awards. Professor Davids’ research work focuses on topography, urban watercourses, buildings and cities and he has received a Senior Fulbright Fellowship, a Graham Foundation Fellowship, and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for research on the hillside elevators of Valparaiso, Chile, included in a forthcoming book that examines the interrelationships of technology, topography, urbanism, and environment in selected Latin American cities.


Professor Kyle Steinfeld, Spring 2017

“ Fresh Eyes, Creative Practice of Design and Computational Design Methods

Since its inception in the 1950’s, design computing has held an ambition of formalizing, mechanizing, and at times automating as many aspects of architectural design as possible. Since that time, many aspects of design have been demonstrated to be amenable to formalization - rote tasks and criteria easily defined objectively - while other aspects such as aesthetic evaluation and issues of visual style have remained outside the reach of automation. Recent advances in computer vision suggest that this may be changing, and that an entirely new paradigm of computation may be soon upon us: one that is both more capable of manifesting visual ambiguity and more sympathetic to the natural cognitive processes of design.

Kyle Steinfeld is Assistant Professor of Architecture at Berkeley specializing in digital design technologies. He is the author of the forthcoming Geometric Computation: A Field Guide for Architects, a foundational text that demystifies computational geometry for an audience of architecture students and design professionals. Guided by an idea of practical computation, a foundations-first, visually-rich, and problem-centered approach to the subject, this work is conceived of as a guidebook to accompany architectural designers as they tackle projects that benefit from the critical application of computation.