Course #: ADV-09129
Rahul Mehrotra, Martha Chen
ADV-09129 /The Ephemeral City: Research Seminar on Temporal Urbanism
Today, the scale and pace of contemporary urbanization challenges the notion of permanence as a basic condition of cities. In reaction to this condition, there is an emerging argument about the need to situate the notion of the ephemeral in the larger discourse on cities. In reality, when cities are analyzed over large temporal-spans, ephemerality emerges as an important state in the life cycle of every built environment. It is in this context that the seminar is framed as an exploration of temporal landscapes in order to extract lessons and provide a conceptual framework to understand both permanent and impermanent urban configurations. In fact, in recent years, there has been an extraordinary increase in pilgrimage practices, which have consequently translated into the need of larger and more frequently constructed settlements for hosting mass gatherings. Also, climate change, ensuing natural disasters and political rife are rendering temporary settlements as holding strategies or short-term solutions with more frequent occurrence. At the same time, cultural celebrations are also constantly increasing in scale as well as frequency, and resulting in the erection of temporary built structures within and outside urban areas. These examples can be expanded to add several other cases including: an array of pop-up settlements built for the extraction of natural resources in mining, oil extraction, and forestry industries, as well as temporary installations for defense purposes in different latitudes, and even the recent disruptive constructions inside formal settlements as a result of the ‘Occupy’ movement. During the course of the semester we will identify and develop several taxonomies of ephemeral urbanism including those that are deployed for rite, defense, refuge, emergency, celebration or extraction. They have much to teach us about planning and design, on flow management, accelerated urban metabolism, and the deployment of infrastructure, but also about cultural identity, adjustment, and elasticity in urban conditions. They in fact represent an entire surrogate urban ecology that grows and disappears on an, often extremely tight, temporal scale. In short, this research seminar will frame this notion of the ephemeral as a productive category within the larger discourse on urbanism more generally.
The class will be capped at 12 students. No prerequisites.