Anna Gasco appointed as new head of urban planning at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture

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Anna Gasco will succeed Markus Appenzeller as head of urban planning at the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam as of 1 September. Gasco studied at Bartlett UCL in London and obtained a PhD at ETH-Zurich. She founded Studio UPLA in 2018, initially based in Singapore and since 2022 in Amsterdam. The editors called her and asked her three questions about her work and her new position within the Academy at Waterlooplein in Amsterdam.

The following text has been published on De Architect (17-05-2023). Image by Alessia Bulani

Anna Gasco is co-author of publications such as The Grand Project (2019) and she's working on now The Airport, an Urban Territory, a book coming out in 2024. In addition to writing, Gasco works as an associate at KCAP Architects &Planners on various urban designs, including a master plan for the Keflavík airport in Iceland.

You write: 'These are exciting times for the urban planning profession, we can no longer offer fragmented answers'. That sounds like you see the urban planner as a mediator?
'There is certainly a mediating component to the urban planning work. But the role of an urban planner goes far beyond an impartial mediator in solving complex problems. Urban planning is inherently multidisciplinary because it has to connect different areas of expertise, scales and forces. To understand and address the complex nature of cities and urban environments.'

In the face of climate change, it is now more important than ever that all the disciplines that shape our spaces work together." (Anna Gasco)

In the light of climate change, it is now more important than ever that all disciplines that shape our spaces work together. We must also make this cooperation a subject of public debate. As architects, planners and urban planners, we bear responsibility for the fact that cities make a substantial contribution to total CO2 emissions. With the global urban population constantly growing, making cities CO2-free will be one of the biggest challenges of the coming decades.

'The multidisciplinary nature of urban planning requires collaboration, but also active integration of knowledge from different disciplines to create sustainable, inclusive and liveable urban environments.'

You have gained a lot of experience in major cities in Asia such as Hong Kong, Shenzhen and especially Singapore. Can you apply that experience here?
'I have had the privilege of living, studying and working in many places in Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia. These experiences have led to my fascination with urban environments and their potential to positively impact our lives. Each place has unique contextual differences that have enriched my understanding of urban planning.

'I am familiar with the European city, its layered history and different planning cultures. And I have spent the past eleven years familiarizing myself with the large-scale and rapid growth of Asian cities. These experiences have been invaluable and highlight the multitude of lessons that can be learned from any context.

'Singapore, for example, won praise for its future-oriented urban planning approach. With an emphasis on green spaces, such as parks, green corridors, roof gardens and vertical greenery, the urban environment improved at various levels and prioritized sustainability. In addition, Singapore's investments in infrastructure and inclusive public transport systems (leveraging technology and data-driven solutions) have optimised urban infrastructure. These lessons can be sources of inspiration, but they must always be adapted and tailored to the specific needs, characteristics, unique contexts and cultural differences of each location."

"My international network allows me to develop engaging lecture series, design studios and workshops that reflect the challenges of our urbanized world."  (Anna Gasco)

"In addition to my personal experiences, I am delighted to make use of the international network I have developed over the years. This network allows me to develop engaging lecture series, design studios, and workshops that reflect the challenges of our urbanized world. By bringing together experts and professionals from diverse backgrounds, I strive to create enriching educational experiences for the Academy's students, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to address the complexities of urban design in today's world."

Are you going to teach yourself or will the students mainly see you in the role of supervisor?
'Together with the heads of architecture and landscape architecture of the Academy, my responsibility lies in guiding and shaping the content and structure of the pedagogical curriculum. We work with an exceptional team of guest lecturers who bring their experience and knowledge to create a cohesive learning environment. While we actively participate in design reviews and provide guidance, our role as masters degree heads is to remain impartial and fully committed to the development of our students. Based on years of teaching experience, which continues to this day, I bring my pedagogical expertise to the Academy, which allows me to make a strategic contribution and help shape the future direction of our educational program.'

De Architect (text), Alessia Bulani (image)