Renee Chow is Professor of Architecture and Urban Design. Her work focuses on the benefits of designing the intersection between architecture and its locale.
City design has never been more important and never has it been more problematic. As our world faces new and complex challenges, our cities will need to be made more porous, more sustainable, more accommodating of diverse populations, more robust. Yet, the methods and knowledge we employ in their design is not advancing: we have a poor understanding of what makes good cities, places and neighborhoods. We have more data, but less sense, like in how a street supports activities beyond traffic. Computation and big data are emerging as tools to model urban complexity, yet these models are premised on a simple, bifurcated view of cities — inside or outside. The rich interrelations that weave the pieces of a city together into a fabric, an urbanism, is difficult to represent in the design process. This is where the core of her research work is directed: the language, generative tools, and systemic metrics of relational conditions that support the design of better cities and extended places. These new urban tools have been used in both the American suburbs and in rapidly changing Chinese cities. Current projects include studies in water resilience planning, integrating building systems with urban water systems to increase the porosity and capacity of urban water infrastructure.
Professor Chow is author of Suburban Space: The Fabric of Dwelling (2002) which illustrates potentials of single family houses when designed as fields; Changing Chinese Cities: The Potential of Field Urbanism (2015) looks at building and urban system integration using historic and contemporary Chinese neighborhoods as case studies. She is also principal of Studio URBIS, an architecture and urban design practice formed in collaboration with her partner, Thomas Chastain. Projects include single and multi-family residences, institutional and commercial projects as well as urban and community specific development plans and studies.