Special Subject: Urban Design — Urbanism and the Environment

Permission of instructor

The contemporary world faces unprecedented environmental issues. Driven by population increase and the lifestyle of the developed world, environmental issues from resource depletion to the pollution caused by fossil fuels have progressed beyond speculation to be not only visible, but to seriously threaten life on our planet. Addressing these issues will meet with formidable resistance, as they are the result of the existing fabric of the developed world, and solutions appear to question that fabric; e.g., the cessation of fossil fuel use, less consumption, simpler, more compact living, etc. Further, no political system today is fully capable of addressing the problems.

Design and planning alone cannot solve the world’s environmental problems, but questioning our lifestyle and redesigning our physical environment can make the largest impact, while providing a framework for addressing secondary issues. Available data now supports the idea that cities are the most energy-efficient form of habitation on a per-capita basis, and that they have the lightest carbon footprint. This implies living smaller, more compactly, and simpler. This is not, however, how the developed world currently lives, nor is it the way most design professionals are trained to research and design. In short, architecture is in need of a larger civic agenda. i.e., an urban and environmental agenda.

This workshop is an initial research study of the ways that architecture and urbanism can make a positive contribution to the environment while creating a rich life. The workshop is articulated into three parts:

  1. Learning the problem:
    This phase involves readings, lectures, and discussions with the goal of a comprehensive understanding of issues from population to resource consumption and pollution.
  2. Evaluating the issues:
    This phase will involve evaluation of issues that can be significantly impacted by urbanism: how, and to what degree.
  3. Topical research study and proposal:
    This phase will be devoted to the development of individual applied research studies about improved urban performance, growing out of the first two phases.

Class participation and a research presentation and report will be required.

Undergraduate and graduate students are welcome.