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The Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning announced the creation of a new major program on Oct. 27. The program, Urban Technology, seeks to address the intersections of urban living, technology and citizenship.

According to a press release from Taubman, the Bachelor of Science degree program is the first of its kind and hopes to pioneer new ways to understand, shape and design cities. 

The program will begin in winter 2022 in Ann Arbor and will offer spring term intensives in cities like New York, San Francisco and Bangalore. Applications for the next term are currently closed but are expected to open again in August 2021 for the winter semester. 

Bryan Boyer, director of the new program, described it as a liberal arts degree for students who want to be involved in the future of cities. 

“As a thought exercise, I would ask ‘What kinds of challenges do you think are going to be important in the next five years, or 100 years, that don’t somehow touch cities and don’t somehow involve technology?’” Boyer said. 

Anthony Vanky, assistant professor of urban and regional planning, is involved in the program because of his expertise on how data can aid the design and planning of cities. He said the new major is aiming to look at how technology and design interface with the cities people live in. 

“We’re looking at how technologies can actually better serve people in these spaces,” Vanky said. “And how the city may change and respond as a result, as well.” 

Architecture junior Joe Majchrzak is interested in both architecture and coding. He said he believes technology plays a critical role in modern cities. 

“I think that it plays a huge role, nowadays and it’s always been changing in regards to architecture,” Majcharzak said. “For example, so much more of our spaces now are focused around the places in which we access the internet.”

Boyer said the program begins in the winter semester to give incoming students a gap semester between high school and college, while also allowing the program to create a hybrid spring semester/summer program. This program is only open to incoming freshman students. 

“We’re also putting forward a list of minors that we want the students to choose from and complete,” Boyer said. “That’s a way for us to have a diverse cohort in terms of their interest and the skill sets they develop.” 

Vanky said the program will start off with a broad introduction to urbanism. 

“We really start with the foundational aspects,” Vanky said. “And question philosophically: What does it mean to have a city, live in a city and to be a citizen of a city citizen broadly.” 

Vanky said the major was created in order to fill a gap in the architecture curriculum.

“No one’s thinking about how (technology) impacts the everyday resident,” Vanky said. “How does it change the way we live and inhabit the cities that we know and love?”

Boyer said the program is not interested in creating technology just for the sake of it — it is intended to better the lives of city’s residents. 

“We’re only interested in technology insofar as it helps people live more equitable and more humane, more joyous, more sustainable lives together,” Boyer said. 

Rinika Prince, a Taubman alum, is interested in how technology within architecture can be used to uplift people’s lives. She said technology is important in helping architects and urban planners access the intangible sides of their fields.

“We know that no city is the same, building urban infrastructure for cities involves a deep understanding of the systems to help in being responsible and responsive to city dwellers,” Prince said. “Urban technology, to me, is the perfect blend of traditional fields like architecture design and urban planning, combined with digital solutions, to create impactful and flexible solutions.”

Vanky said the program would be a great place for those looking to be involved in many disciplines. 

“We’re also inviting people who are also looking up past the horizon to imagine what futures may look like,” Vanky said. “Because they’re gonna be the ones who are creating it.”

Daily Staff Reporter Paige Hodder can be reached at phodder@umich.edu

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