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Estudio Teddy Cruz + Forman

Estudio Teddy Cruz + Forman is at the vanguard of evolving urban practice. Together, Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman have pushed a quiet revolution in the culture of U.S. planning by attempting to move civic imagination away from the legacy of post-war suburban planning. Central to their work is a reimagining of the role of “borders,” using San Diego/Tijuana as a laboratory. Conventional planning methodologies understand borders as something to be defended; reinforcing the idea of an inherent conflict between two sides which in fact does not necessarily exist. Through their work, which includes urban intervention projects, art installations and civic engagement, Cruz and Forman argue that borders are better thought of as places of exchange and innovation. For example, while current political discourse, reinforced by the mainstream media, presents the US/Mexico border as a place of criminalization, Cruz and Forman want to elevate it as a site of creativity.

The practice was founded in 2000 by Cruz, an American architect, urbanist, and educator. Fonna Forman, a noted political theorist, joined the practice in 2010. Both are currently professors at the University of California, San Diego. They are also directors of the UCSD Cross-Border Initiative.

Estudio Teddy Cruz + Forman has worked at many scales and in many contexts. Much of their work focuses on the activation of small spaces – taking neglected urban areas and developing them into community resources. Through this approach, planners and architects can begin to transform neighborhoods under the nose of existing and ossified zoning psychologies.

Simultaneously, Estudio Teddy Cruz + Forman has been at the frontier of blending design and policy. Historically, there has been very little collaboration between the leaders of Tijuana and San Diego, despite their proximity and shared resources (such as a watershed). In 2013, Forman and Cruz were recruited by San Diego mayor Bob Filner to develop the Civic Innovation Lab – an ambitious project to bring designers into City Hall and develop new practices for engaging marginalized communities and strengthening the urban relationship with Tijuana. Although the project was short-lived, it remains one of the few examples where such an integration was attempted in the U.S.

We had an opportunity to have an extended conversation with Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman on Social Design Insights. Listen to the episodes here: