The University of Arizona

UA Group Offers International Urban Design Opportunities

By Rebecca Ruiz-McGill, University Communications | September 14, 2011

Students from the UA College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture travel the world creating culturally relevant urban solutions.

This rendering by UA architecture and landscape architecture students implements sustainability efforts in rainwater collection and functionality in controlling transportation flow in Panama City's Panamericana Intersection.
This rendering by UA architecture and landscape architecture students implements sustainability efforts in rainwater collection and functionality in controlling transportation flow in Panama City's Panamericana Intersection.
Members of the Tejido Group along with collaborators with the University of Panama.
Members of the Tejido Group along with collaborators with the University of Panama.

Providing architecture and landscape architecture students with real-world experience in urban developmental planning and design strategies is the mission of associate professor Mark Frederickson's Tejido Group

The Tejido Group works to provide hands-on research projects that offer an interdisciplinary internship opportunity for faculty members and students to help communities, inside and outside of the U.S.

The group has tackled projects in Palestine, the British West Indies and places as close as Summer Haven, Ariz., and this summer, Frederickson and eight volunteers worked on an intense three-week design project in Panama.

Frederickson received a request for services in spring 2010 from the governor of Panama City Province, Panama, and the team mobilized this summer to tackle an urban revitalization project in the city.

The team worked to revitalize Panama City's Central Avenue with connective strategies and circulatory corridors to create a sustainable urban living master plan in a rapidly growing urban environment. Team members aimed to accommodate public transportation, encourage biking and walking, offer recreational space, promote recycling and create jobs while bringing back small business opportunities.

Frederickson had previously worked in Panama during the U.S.'s planned turn-over of Panamanian lands in 1999. As is his trademark and the basis of the word Tejido – which is to weave – Frederickson remained close with colleagues in Panama as he has done with colleagues world-wide who know of the quality work produced by the group.

Aaron Liggett, a second year landscape architecture graduate student, said he specifically enrolled at the UA's College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture for the opportunities Frederickson's Tejido Group provides.

"I read about the work Mark has done around the world and really looked forward to any opportunity to work with him on a project," Liggett said. 

Frederickson considers the merit of the design projects requested based on several levels of sustainability and function:

  • Functional: Is it safe, easily maintained and does it circulate well with the community needs?
  • Environmental: Does it rehabilitate and preserve existing habitat? Create new habitat?
  • Social: Does it encourage learning and meaningful social interaction?
  • Economic: Are the planning solutions economically sustainable?
  • Aesthetic: Are the design outcomes aesthetically appropriate and sensitive to the cultural and natural heritage of the region?

Tejido projects include cross cultural collaborations with university students in the communities where projects take place, and UA students are sometimes housed within the homes of host families to make the effort more affordable to and immerse students in the culture.

"The work we do is not just a studio project; it's a political, cultural, language and new world immersion project. It sets students up to be ready to work in any environment without fear or hesitation," Frederickson said.

The Panama project allowed Frederickson to reconnect with former UA master's student and now professor Yariela Cedeño of the University of Panama.

Cedeño had her students represent what Frederickson calls the globalization of the UA College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture curriculum as he sees his students graduate and begin careers world-wide.

"As a student who is looking to work in Latin America, it was valuable to me to get to know the technical Spanish terms for the architectural lingo and the opportunity to create networks wherever we go has been quite valuable," said undergraduate architecture student Jesus Alan Figueroa, who has traveled with the Tejido Group to Palestine and Panama.

The governor of Panama City has asked for a cost estimate of the Tejido Group's revitalization plan, a sign Frederickson said of its success and hopeful implementation.