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Chris Torres ’09 Transforms Theory into Practice


Loyola Marymount University senior Chris Torres took his urban planning education to a new level by participating in “The Shape of Two Cities: New York/Paris Program” at Columbia University last year. The program accepted undergraduate students from around the country who are interested in pursuing a career in architecture or urban planning.

“Urban planning cannot only be taught in a university classroom. You have to go to the site, talk with the community and understand their needs in order to take an approach that will benefit everyone,” Torres said.

The two-semester program encompassing architecture, planning and preservation  encouraged students’ exploration of history, theory and practice to gain a deeper understanding of those interrelationships, especially in regard to the making of the cities.

During the first semester, Torres studied at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. His project “Re-Claiming Junk Space: Hunts Point, NYC” investigated how local populations informally occupy and transform any space that is not used productively. The project combined urban design, graffiti art and landscape.

“Problems need to be identified by the people in the community. The project helped me to think about the city on a macro level, and how an idea can affect the individual person,” Torres said.

Torres spent the second semester studying in Paris at Reid Hall, Columbia’s Center for French Studies located in the heart of the Montparnasse district. He explored the informal usage of public space in his project “Take Me To Nowhere.” Torres looked at the use of an abandoned railroad line called the Petite Ceinture and offered alternatives based on the needs of its users.

“Many times the eyesores of the city, like the Petite Ceinture, are actually the spaces that have the real potential. Public spaces need to address what the public needs,” Torres said.

For his senior thesis, Torres is performing the first psycho-spatial investigation of workers at thoroughbred horse racing tracks in Southern California. Each track typically has a couple thousand workers who care for the horses that live and work on the backstretch. Torres will examine the connection between design and the social isolation of these workers.

After graduation, Torres hopes to earn a Ph.D. in urban planning.

Below are two posters from Torres' final presentation:

Baretto Point Park

 Barretto Point Park

Le Petite

Le Petite Ceinture