The limits imposed upon international travel resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have not prevented the School of the Built Environment in the Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture from bringing together postgraduate students and international jurors across three continents to participate in an extremely successful International Urban Design Studio.

Examining the potential to revitalise and reimagine future growth, employment and sustainability on Chicago’s South Side, MUDD students worked over the summer semester to present provocative and creative solutions that addressed population loss, employment growth, brownfield development and urban decay.

Presenting a critique of Chicago’s existing plans for future growth, the virtual studio looked beyond the social and political reckonings of the recent Black Lives Matter movement to propose solutions that are founded not only in good urban design principles, but ones that recognise and celebrate the rich and proud cultural heritage of the South Side neighbourhoods.

Presenting their proposals to an esteemed jury consisting of Doug Voight, Tiara Hughes and Daweed Sully (SOM, Chicago) and Maurice Cox (Commissioner of Planning & Development, Chicago), the students’ work was praised for the thoroughness of research as well as the innovative nature of the proposals.

The summer semester was directed by Emeritus Professor James Weirick, Course Convenors Andrew Sweeney and Jodi Lawton with input from many friends and colleagues of the Master of Urban Development and Design Program.

Demonstrating through a commitment to teaching and a willingness to support students adapting to a virtual learning mode, the 26th MUDD International Studio once more showcased the abilities of our students to an international audience and continued the strong tradition of global outreach for which UNSW is renowned.