Faculty Spotlight: Shannon Bassett, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urbanism
July 10, 2012
“We need to let structures ecologically develop themselves. We need to work around nature.”
In a world where the landscape changes rapidly, Shannon Bassett has wasted no time putting her skills to good use. Working with the academic community in China, Bassett is currently utilizing natural landscapes to design sustainable, eco-friendly cities of the future.
Bassett is an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the USF School of Architecture and Community Design where she was one of three faculty to start the Urban Design program. She first travelled to China in 2006 where she lectured at the International Forum on Sustainable Urbanism Conference held at Tsinghua University in Beijing. In 2008, she made her second visit on a USF Summer Study Abroad program to China where she said she was struck by the stark differences between the structure of the coastal and the rural cities. She explained that as she studied China’s landscapes further, she was fascinated at their efforts to put together new, eco cities built around the natural engineering of the land.
In 2010, Bassett received a USF Global Academic Program (GAP) grant to develop and conduct a collaborative seminar on ‘Landscape as Ecology and Urbanism’ working with Tianjin University and Nankai University in China. She then travelled back to Nankai accompanying students on the School of Architecture and Design’s Study Abroad Studio program in Fall 2010. Students from USF partnered with students at Tianjin and Nankai to understand the workings of designing using the natural system. “It was astonishing how easily they bonded,” said Bassett.
Majoring in sustainability, planning and design, USF students had the opportunity to observe how the Chinese experiment with their urban spaces under regulations quite different from those in the United States. Bassett noted that students were especially impressed with the ‘pedestrianism’ in China. “Their spaces are much smaller to work with. And in China, regulations are strict so, it’s challenging to be creative,” she said.
As part of the collaborative agreement between the three universities, faculty and students from Tianjin and Nankai universities came to USF in Spring 2012.
Bassett’s international research in urban design inspired her to begin ‘Restitch Tampa’, a global competition that invites students across the world to repurpose the structure of Tampa and create a design that could deem Tampa an eco-city. Supported by a grant from the NEA, the competition was first held in Spring 2011 and has received a tremendous response with over 40 submissions from participants in countries including Germany, Korea and India.
Bassett emphasizes that in any structural scenario it is important to integrate the social, economic and ecological facets of the space. She says that though it’s feasible to compare the landscapes of China and Tampa, different models must be designed for Asian and U.S. cities to create low carbon cities that will minimize the carbon footprint.
A member on the board of directors of the International Association of Chinese Planners, Bassett recently received a faculty travel grant to present a paper at the 6th Annual International Assocation for China Planning conference held in June in Wuhan, China where she discussed her research on Chinese eco-cities.
She is now working with her students on de-engineering Tampa’s urban framework and using the same architectural reasoning in her research to create a naturally enabled local environment.