Auburn University’s Urban Studio is helping transform downtown Birmingham. Here’s how.

Students at the Urban Studio working on strategic plans for Birmingham. Photo via Auburn University Urban Studio on Facebook

Have you heard of Auburn University’s Urban Studio? Even if you haven’t, you’ve seen their fingerprints on work throughout downtown Birmingham. We reached out to the team to learn more about the scope of the program.

What is Auburn University’s Urban Studio?

  • Address: 221 20th St N, Birmingham, AL 35203

Located in downtown Birmingham, the Auburn University Urban Studio is a teaching & outreach program of Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction. The program gives third- and fifth-year students the opportunity to engage in real world community projects throughout the city of Birmingham.

What makes Auburn’s Urban Studio unique? Unlike many architectural programs that focus on just a building itself, the Urban Studio encourages students to think outside the box and analyze how a particular structure will fit into the community as a whole.

Since the program’s inception, the Urban Studio has worked on dozens of project-specific studies in Birmingham, including master plans for Lakeview, revitalization plans for College Hills and Graymont, housing studies in Avondale & Midtown and much more.

Learn more about Urban Studio’s plan for a Reconnected Smithfield.

Who makes up the Urban Studio?

Auburn University students at the Urban Studio, alongside their scale model of downtown Birmingham. Photo via Auburn University Urban Studio on Facebook

The Urban Studio is an option for third- and fifth-year undergrads at Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction. Admission to the program is competitive—only 15 students are admitted each year.

“Third-year students can come study at the Urban Studio for a semester and get a feel for what we do. Then, as fifth-year students, they can come back for the entire year and really get embedded in the community.”

Alex Krumdieck, Director of Urban Studio

Fifth-year students in the Urban Studio typically have the opportunity to work on an individual project, as part of a larger collective study. At the inception of the study, the cohort examines the project and comes up with a set of uses that are needed in the district—housing, health, schools, etc. Within that project, students craft a large-scale plan that the Urban Studio can share with developers and shareholders in the community.

“We’ve had excellent feedback from the students involved in the program. In fact, nearly half of the third-year students have chosen to return to the program in their fifth year. So, that says something about the popularity of the experience.”

John Pittari, Associate Professor

Intertwined with Birmingham

In 2019, Urban Studio teamed up with REV Birmingham create outdoor seating for Park(ing) Day. Photo via Auburn University Urban Studio on Facebook

At the Urban Studio, students work on real-world projects in the city of Birmingham. For example, the current third-year students are examining the feasibility of transforming the Cobb Lane area into a new arts district for Birmingham. The one-block cobblestone street could be a vibrant home for new art studios and galleries, accompanied by coffee + tea shops. Meanwhile, the fifth-year students are studying the neighborhood around McLendon Park, in order to better utilize Legion Field and the other amenities in the community.

The Urban Studio works alongside a number of community partners to help transform these plans into reality, including:

  • University of Alabama Center for Economic Development
  • REV Birmingham
  • The City of Birmingham
  • Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham
  • Your Town Alabama
  • Alabama Historical Commission
  • DesignAlabama
  • Alabama Communities of Excellence
  • Alabama Innovation Engine

Want to learn more about Auburn’s Urban Studio?

Students at the Urban Studio. Photo via Auburn University Urban Studio on Facebook

To keep up with the Urban Studio’s projects, check out their website and follow them on Instagram and Facebook. And if you’d like to learn more about working with the Urban Studio, send them an email or give them a call at 205.323.3592

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  • Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.