Countryside versus Cityside: A Seminar in Environmental History

This Course is for students in the Rotterdam Study Abroad Program.

Investigating the countryside, as architects, requires a zooming out of the city and the metropolis, which have become in the past decades, for the better and for the worse, the ecological niche (and the new Zeitgeist) of architecture. It implies stepping out into an extended field that seems both familiar and strange, and subject to rapid evolutions. Confronted to these radical transformations, architects usually explain them as the result of opposite processes: either a territorial conquest and extension of the Metropolis, or a dismantling of the metropolitan order that would ultimately lead to the emergence of new territorial figures and concepts. Slowly resurfacing into this debate are old ideas and hypotheses (ruralism, disurbanism, regionalism, etc.) that were more or less silenced by the explosion of Großstädte in the past decades. The aim of our seminar will be to discuss these ideas again, and their resurgence, within the framework of a global history of the environment, and of the environmentalism which questions nowadays, as never before, the methods, tools and concepts of urbanism. In so doing, we will attempt to show that architecture is potentially rich of a considerable jurisprudence, both practical and theoretical, that could be revived as a significant contribution of the discipline to elucidating “the present environmental predicament”.