Course code:



IM - Introductory/Intermediate

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • AD - Arts & Design

Lab fee:


Typically offered:

Upon occasion

We typically think of cities as centers of political and economic power, social vibrancy (and tension), and cultural richness, diversity and production. This course explores ecological “readings” of cities, landscapes transformed irrevocably due to human activities and the introduction of unprecedented concentrations of “unnatural” substances and significant loss of biological and hydrological integrity. The course also examines processes by which cities have transformed surrounding regional landscapes as both “wells” of resources and “sinks” for waste and the planetary scale environmental impacts of urban growth in the contemporary global economy. Following a succinct historical survey in the first part of the class (with focus on the interrelated forces of industrialization, colonization and explosive urban growth in the nineteenth century), we will look to recent efforts to reimagine cities such that they are more “ecological.” These efforts come in a variety of forms from “city as refugia” (establishing habitat for nonhumans) to “novel ecosystems” (working with new concentrations of contaminants and colonization of non-native biological communities) to cities as settings in which closed-loop, ecologically inspired systems drive processes of development. Of concern related to all of these ecological urbanisms is that conversion of city landscapes from grey to green and blue can lead to ever greater levels of inequality. In the final section of the course, we will speculate as to ways to intervene in cities-as-ecosystems that build on commitments to both social justice and ecological replenishment, bringing into relation the flourishing of humans and nonhumans in urbanized environments. Evaluations will be based on class participation and sustained engagement with the core themes: attendance, demonstration of close readings of texts, contributions to group discussions (including listening), honing of collaborative capabilities, and commitment to an iterative process with the three course projects (the last of which will be worked on in teams) that involve succinct compositions of written narratives and diagrams and other visual representations (multiple graphics workshops will be structured into the class).



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