OK, so I’ve been slacking on the blogging so far this semester. I actually just got some great news this week. My wife, who has been searching for a job since before we moved to Philly in August, finally got a job this week. So we no longer have to scrimp by on my stipend, our savings, and credit cards. This should also help me get into a better routine for my research since I’ll get up with her at 6am everyday.
Anyways, on to my classes for the semester:
ARCH 812 - Architectural Theory: Premises on the City (David Leatherbarrow):
The basic question to be addressed in this course concerns the role that architecture plays in the accommodation, articulation, and renewal of public culture. Were there no threats to public culture in our time, a historical and philosophical study such as this would be unnecessary, but in a time when market economy means market culture and private alternatives to shared culture keep us off the streets and apart from one another, the importance and prospect of public life must be reconsidered. Failure to do so would mean neglect of architecture’s essential subject matter and its grounds for relevance.
The course has a primary thesis: that the task of urban architecture involves serving and showing what is shared. Put in the form of a two-part question the thesis runs like this: what is held in common in a given situation and how is that accommodated and represented?
The course of lectures will follow a historical path, beginning in the 14th and ending in the 20th century. Urban architecture and city districts will be the main focus of the lectures, with examples from Europe, North, and South America. The sequence of lectures is divided into two parts, the first properly theoretical, and the second both historical and typological, which is to say focused on the historical emergence of urban institutions.
ENVS 652 - History of American Environmental Thought (Jamie Blaine):
Through an exploration of enduring themes and classics, this course traces environmental thought in America from the first European settlements to the present. We begin by considering the preconceptions that Europeans brought to the New World and the realities they found when they arrived. We look at the issues raised by the unprecedented industrial and urban expansion of the 19th century and the accompanying westward migration that filled the continent. We examine how the conflict between economic growth and environmental limits created competing models of prosperity, equality and justice. And finally, we look at ways to transcend those divides and build a sustainable and equitable future. The primary vehicles for understanding the evolution of environmental thinking across several centuries are some of the classic texts of environmental thought – from The Book of Genesis to Henry Thoreau’s Walden to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. The course seeks to provide a theoretical and historical framework that will help students understand current issues and address real problems.
LARP 780 - Case Studies in Urban Design (David Gouveurneur):
The beginning of the Millenia is marked by world awareness on environmental issues and concern for the future of cities, especially the large metropolitan areas of the developing world where a high percentage of the Earth’s population will reside. Professions that traditionally have dealt with the environment and the making of built form in a rather independent way are growing closer every day. Interdisciplinary questions and tasks are at the center of the political, professional, and academic debate. Taking simultaneously into account aspects that range from territorial to site specific design as well as understanding contextual and cultural appropriateness, are also crucial considerations, in light of the process of globalization and accelerated change and growth.
This course will expose students to a wide array of case studies in Planning, Urban Design, and Landscape Architecture. They include: notions of sustainable development, the interplay between open space and built form, the rehabilitation of existing areas such as historic districts, commercial corridors, and the improvement of squatter settlements. Also, it will focus on city expansions and new towns, housing, mixed-use developments, and areas of new centrality. The program additionally addresses territorial planning and the improvement and creation of open space.
URBS 608 - Proseminar in Urban Studies (Michael Katz):
This is the second half of my yearlong Urban Studies seminar on the postwar American city. Last semester was a ton of reading and this semester we have visiting lecturers each week and we’re (supposed to be) working on our major research project which, as I mentioned last semester, I am looking at the “Great American Streetcar Conspiracy.”
ARCH 999 - CIAM Urbanism (Independent Study w/ David Leatherbarrow):
This class is allowing me to start getting into the topics that I’m really interested in. I’m looking into the urban discourse of CIAM between the years 1930 and 1942. I’m reading one of the major CIAM texts each week, so there’s a lot of Le Corbusier and Sigfried Giedion with some Cornelis van Eesteren, Jose Luis Sert and other thrown in for good measure. I’m hoping to uncover the influence of van Eesteren’s presidency which really shaped the early years of CIAM. My intention is to continue this line of research next semester with another independent study on the late CIAM years and Team 10.
The semester has been great so far and I’m looking forward to the rest of it.