Emergent Urbanism: Design Visions for the city of Hermosillo, Mexico (Project Based Class)

This project-based class focuses on the planning and design of sustainable strategies for cities in the developing world, using the city of Hermosillo in northern Mexico as the basis for analysis and action. In partnership with the Cities Program of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Mayor of Hermosillo, this course asks students to devise new planning actions and policies — as well as an array of strategic design and investment strategies — that could help advance economic, social, and environmental resilience in the city. Students in this class will work closely with local and State authorities in Sonora and México more generally, as well as with practitioners from several multilateral organizations including the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the North American Development Bank (NADBANK) and the World Bank (WB).  In addition to the lead instructors, the course will host a diverse array of invited scholars to provide their views of potential development strategies for the city.

The city of Hermosillo, located in the southern corner of the Sonora Desert in Mexico, faces a series of pressing challenges related to decades of unregulated urbanization and uneven economic development. They include: chaotic and sprawling urban settlement patterns; informality in housing and employment; insufficient transportation; concentrated and endemic poverty; and stagnant economic growth, to name just a few. Complicating matters, the state of Sonora (for which Hermosillo is the capital city) is vulnerable to a variety of risks ranging from endemic violence linked to the transnational drug trade to environmental disasters, both instigated by climate change and  the extreme weather and geographical conditions that have led to severe water scarcities, thus putting added pressures on the city of Hermosillo to develop new pathways in a relatively fragile regional context in which strategies undertaken in the city will inevitably be conditioned by activities and resource in the region.

For this course, students will be asked to undertake research and propose interventions in four key areas: 1) spatial structure of the city –  focusing on issues of sprawl, overall city form, neighborhood configurations, design of public spaces, etc.; 2) landscape & environment – as both the source and solution for sustainability challenges; 3) mobility — understood  in terms of social mobility  (i.e. educational attainment and employment opportunities) and physical mobility (i.e. transportation);  and 4) strengthening the local economy and its potential for sustained growth – with particular attention paid to making the city more competitive in local, regional, national, and global concerns. Ideally, proposed policies and design interventions that students initiative will leverage more than one of these domains. In all instances, students will be encouraged to think about interventions at a variety of scales — from the urban to the neighborhood – and to incorporate landscape, urban design, and planning strategies in ways that will help authorities achieve larger sustainability aims.