Cities, Infrastructures, and Politics: From Renaissance to Smart Technologies

Infrastructures play a decisive role in urban development and in the life of cities. This course will envisage this role from a historical perspective. History proves especially useful when dealing with the political dimension of urban infrastructures. From fortifications to smart technologies, infrastructures are inseparable from political intentions and consequences. This political dimension will constitute one of the threads of this lecture course. Other themes of the course will include the relation between cities and their hinterland, the progressive dematerialization of infrastructures, from walls or bridges to the invisible electronic networks that organize contemporary urban life, the rise of environmental concerns and their impact on infrastructural thoughts and practices, the need to conceive differently infrastructures when dealing with informal settlements.

'Cities, Infrastructures and Politics: From Renaissance to Smart Technologies' would like to suggest an alternative way to read cities and their evolution. Historical analysis will systematically serve as a basis to envisage contemporary issues such as the challenges of rising inequality and climate change. Since it aims to chart new territory, class discussions will be regularly organized after the presentations.

To validate the course, students will be asked to produce a short end-of-the-semester paper on a topic related to the course.

Among the topics covered:
– Urban Infrastructure and Politics. A Theoretical and Empirical Challenge
– Cartography as Infrastructure
– Infrastructures for Conflicts: From Urban Fortification to electronic surveillance
– Territories, Cities and the Transportation Revolution
– The Rise of the 19th-Century Networked City
– From Nineteenth-Century Urban Parks to the High Line in New York: An Infrastructural Nature
– Technology, Infrastructure and the Urban Experience: From Electricity to the Digital
– Rationalization Doctrines, Architecture and Urban Planning from Scientific Management to System Theory
– Infrastructure and Urban Modernization in the 20th Century
– Infrastructures for Leisure and Tourism
– Smart Cities: A Self-Fulfilling Ideal
– Urban Metabolism and Infrastructure: Towards the Sustainable and Resilient City

Course structure: In the context created by the sanitary crisis, some flexibility will be offered to students in terms of attendance. While real-time attendance will be strongly encouraged for Thursday presentations that will take place from 8:30 to 10:00AM EST, it will be optional for Tuesday presentations scheduled from 1:00 to 2:30PM EST. After each meeting, lecture recordings will be made systematically available to enable a complete engagement with the material provided by the instructor.

Note: the instructor will offer live course presentations on 01/19-01/21. To access the detailed schedule and Zoom links, please visit the Live Course Presentations Website. If you need assistance, please contact Estefanía Ibáñez