Special Subject: City Form — Landscapes of Energy

Permission of instructor

(please note room change to 4-251)

The triad of energy, economy, and environment is at the forefront of concerns constructing a worldview often governed by a positivist techno-economic desire to increase capacity and improve performance. Under the signs of “needs,” “crisis,” and “sustainability,” the energy discourse often abstracts space; it is an “externality,” a domain where undesired costs can be kept out of sight, or a site that hosts and celebrates the latest environmental fix.
The research seminar proposes a critical spatial inquiry on the relations of energy and space to understand, critique, and ultimately influence choices regarding energy options. The goals of the course are threefold: to spatialize large technical systems of energy, to critically analyze existing and speculative energy visions, and to reflect on energy futures in relation to contemporary assertions of value, ecology and sustainability. The readings draw on the history of technology, environmental history, and critical geography, amongst other disciplines, to bring together energy attributes, which are understood to be either separate from each other or external to the design disciplines. We will engage the themes of the course through specific historical and contemporary landscapes of energy, and that to materially and socially anchor abstract concepts. We will also identify different scales of thinking energy spatially — from that of the building envelope and environmental systems, to cities, regions, and global landscapes.
The course requires active engagement with the weekly assigned readings and a semester-long research project around a specific energy landscape (think Tennessee Valley Authority, Keystone XL Pipeline, Marcellus Shale, Sahara Gas Fields, Offshore Wind Developments in the Great Lakes, etc.). Students advance their research through a combination of graphic and written analysis. Faculty associated with the MIT Energy Initiative will share their expertise and engage the conversation in a series of guest lectures.

Projects in 4.s26