Founded in 1992, by Alan Plattus, then Associate Dean and Professor at the Yale School of Architecture, the Yale Urban Design Workshop (YUDW) is a community design center based at the School of Architecture. Since its founding, the YUDW has worked with communities all across the state of Connecticut, providing planning and design assistance on projects ranging from comprehensive plans, economic development strategies and community visions to the design of public spaces, streetscapes and individual community facilities. Clients include small towns, city neighborhoods, planning departments, Chambers of Commerce, community development corporations, citizen groups, and private developers. After a number of years on the Yale campus, the YUDW is currently located in a storefront space on Chapel Street in New Haven’s Dwight neighborhood, two blocks from the School of Architecture.
In all its work, the YUDW is committed to an inclusive, community-based process, grounded in broad citizen participation and a vision of the design process as a tool for community organizing, empowerment, and capacity-building. A typical YUDW project may include design charrettes, focus groups, and town meetings, as well as more conventional means of program and project development. These projects are staffed mainly by current graduate professional students at the Yale School of Architecture supervised by faculty of the School, but often also include Yale College undergraduates, recent graduates of the School as full-time staff, faculty and students from Yale’s other professional schools (including the Law School, the School of Forestry and Environmental Science, the School of Management, the School of Public Health and the School of Art), as well as outside consultants and other local professionals.
Recent and current projects undertaken by the YUDW include downtown and neighborhood plans for the Connecticut towns of New Britain, Bristol, West Haven and Woodbridge, and development studies for a former airport site in Bethany and an industrial campus in Ansonia.
In May 2008 a YUDW team of faculty and students helped to organize and lead a design charrette in the Jordan River Valley, to develop plans for a 1200 acre Peace Park straddling the border between Israel and Jordan. The project is a cross-border environmental and economic development initiative conceived by Friends of the Earth Middle East, an NGO involved in environmental peace-making in the region. The Yale team worked on site along with Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian professionals and students, and presented the results of the charrette in both Amman and Jerusalem.
One of the Workshop’s longest relationships has been with New Haven’s Dwight neighborhood, just west of Yale’s campus. The fall of 2006 marked the completion of the new Alvis Booker Building, housing the Greater Dwight Daycare Center and offices for the Greater Dwight Development Corporation, designed in collaboration with local architects Thompson|Edwards. In the summer of 2007, the YUDW worked with the GDDC and the community to update the Neighborhood Plan, following in the footsteps of work first undertaken by the Workshop and the Neighborhood Partnerships Network that produced the first Dwight Plan, published in 1995.