Baku: Oil City

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, formerly part of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, is now one of the most dynamic and rapidly changing urban territories in the world. Located at a critical geopolitical nexus between Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, Baku has strong historical, cultural, and economic ties to both Europe and Asia. Today, the city is undergoing its second major oil boom (the first was at the turn of the 20th century) and Baku is poised to become a major player in the global economy. For Baku\’s city planners and business elites, that future includes the capital\’s aspiration to be a 21st century first: \”the oil city that goes green\”. The intention is to develop the city and surrounding region on the Baku peninsula using renewable energy technologies and sustainable practices. The purpose of the seminar is to analyze the historical development of the city in the context of the shifting geopolitics of the region: from late 19th century bourgeois boom town, to Soviet industrial center, to independent republic and capitalist powerhouse with vast reserves of oil and natural gas. Emphasis will be on how urban design, planning, and architecture have dealt with the issue of oil and political change over the course of Baku\’s modern development. Historical precedents and contemporary parallels (Los Angeles, Houston, Dubai, Abu Dhabi) will further augment this analysis. In particular, the objective is to take stock of contemporary urban conditions and issues in Baku, to examine them carefully, historically and spatially, and to consider possible directions and strategies – at a range of different scales – for the future. The seminar will examine:- Historical development (planned and unplanned) of the city and region.- Urban formations directly connected to oil extraction: the early 20thc. \”Black City\” and mid century \”Oily Rocks\” in the Caspian Sea, as well as current plans for remediation and off-shore extraction. – Architecture: Imperial Russian and Stalinist public building, postwar Soviet housing, current public projects, and strategies for recladding and optimizing space and energy use in Soviet-era building.- Infrastructure at urban, regional, national, and international scales: networks, pipelines, railways, trade routes past and future.Structure and Organization: The seminar has been structured in collaboration with the Azerbaijan Ministry of Culture and Architecture University in Baku. We will be working with documents (maps, plans, archival photographs, etc.) from city archives and planning offices, and with planners, preservationists, and historians in Baku. The course is conceived as a collaborative research seminar with ongoing discussion of individual projects, discussions of assigned readings, and guest lectures. The seminar involves a site visit to Baku toward the end of February.Assignments:Mapping and research projects analyzing sites, buildings, urban fabric, contemporary and historical plans and other forms of documentation spatially and temporally through mapping, diagramming, photographic documentation, etc. to understand the evolution of the city, its urban morphologies and architecture. Research topics will be regularly discussed in class throughout the semester, along with assigned readings. Students will present the final results of their research in class at the end of the semester, and submit a final paper (including visual documentation, written, and graphic analysis). Due May 2. Requirements/Prerequisites:Commitment to research, reading, discussion, and trip to Baku. Courses: Buildings Texts Contexts or equivalentRecommended for MArch students in Thesis Prep or Thesis, MAUD, PhD program Note: Students will be term billed $300 and are responsible for the cost of all meals and incidentals during the trip, per GSD policy regarding all international course/studio travel.