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URBAN IMAGINARIES

Curriculum: Elective Urban Seminar   
Date: Spring 2019  
Professor: Janette Kim
Title Image: San Francisco Model, City Planning Commission at Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1939.

This seminar offers a critical introduction to major theories of urbanism to ask how architects help imagine and shape contemporary cities.

We will reflect on ‘the urban imaginary’ by examining how cities are defined through material forces, social acts, political directives and market exchanges, as well as historically informed ideas about what defines ‘the city.’ To do this, we will ask how urbanism’s response to current predicaments such as social inequity, climate change and post-capitalism is entangled with legacy concepts about settlement, industrialization, and modernization.

This course will focus on four themes, spending three weeks on each to unpack their historic contexts and counter-narratives. “Property” will look at the way land has been parceled, zoned and reconfigured—from the Jeffersonian Grid to what Rem Koolhaas called the culture of congestion. “Equity” will review legacies of red-lining and Urban Renewal in post-war American cities with an assessment of housing policy and dynamics of gentrification led by contemporary networks of advocacy and bureaucracy. “Ecology” will assess urbanism’s attitude towards environment across emerging theories of preservation, the Garden City movement, sustainability and climate risk. Lastly, “Economy” will examine how cities enable the distribution of wealth and consumption of resources by studying real estate development, Neoliberal planning, counter-cultural Utopias, and counter-tactics.

Urban Imaginaries is ½ seminar and ½ workshop. In seminar sessions, students will write short responses to medium-sized readings and make one presentation on a contemporary case study related to one of the themes. In workshop sessions, students will respond to reading discussions by making experimental, playful elements of physical, urban models that relate to each topic—thus form, equity, ecology and economy correspond to massing; scale figures; trees and base; and narrative. As a final project, students will aggregate their models together to create a hybrid metropolis and produce an animated GIF of their model that describes a uniquely imagined city.