Considering the complexity of ecological and social challenges, universities and the teaching of architecture offer a unique opportunity to create real-life design problems from their local communities, thereby engaging their students in the learning process. On this context, this paper presents the idea of Academic Urban Laboratories as a methodology to enhancing regional development as well as to better-prepare students for professional careers, exposing them to the benefits of holistic, integrated design outcomes.
This paper offers a review of the main challenges that the teaching of architecture currently faces, followed by a review of emerging frameworks to improve pedagogical methodologies in this discipline. A rubric to assess Academic Urban Labs’ experiences is presented, which has been applied to the analysis of three architecture design studios experiences, addressing the following connections: elective course and local community, studio and local government, studio and international congress.
Finally, the main reflections are related to examining the link between academic and local stakeholders, assessing strategies to increase the efficiency of sustainable outcomes, and reducing the time demand on the management processes to support this methodology. From the results, it is possible to identify an increase in social responsibility, as well as a commitment among students towards more sustainable development, thus supporting the idea of designing new learning experiences connecting academia with real-life problems.