Cyclical City: Landscape and the Longview

Cyclical City is a seminar about the evolution of cities.

Cities are enticingly rich and complex. They are entropic and unpredictable places with long histories of development. They are by definition in constant flux, responding to economic, social and environmental trends, alternating between periods of sprawl and periods of spatial concentration. This dialectic is evident within a region as a whole, a single city and even an individual block or built structure, and it is these juxtapositions that the richness and complexity is born and nurtured. What results is an interwoven repository of what might be called hybrid cityscape, a layering of built fabric and open space tied together by waterways, rails, roads, utilities and other systems.

In this course, we will investigate these long histories of development and un-development through landscape-driven lenses with the aims of debunking typical urban myths. Cities develop reputations that are subjective and often damaging. Our goal is to understand sites with nuance and specificity.  We will do this through lecture, reading, case study, discussion, drawing and critique.  The main work of the course will be cartographic, towards a collective atlas of numerous cities and spaces around the world. We will draw at multiple scales from the territory to the site to the individual material. The drawings will be accompanied by short texts. Through a set of common investigations, students will interrogate a city of their own choosing.

The course is open to all, without prerequisite.