Ecology as Urbanism; Urbanism as Ecology

In light of recent interest in the concept of ecological urbanism, this course will read projects and texts on the relation of landscape ecology to urban planning and design. Those projects and texts will be drawn from contemporary design culture and selected historical cases from the twentieth century. The course is organized as a hybrid of lecture and seminar formats. Each weekly session includes a 45 minute lecture on the topic and a 45 minute seminar discussion following from weekly readings. Each week members of the course will be invited to present individually developed case study reviews of contemporary design projects and texts as informed by the thematics of the course. The course begins with a brief historical overview of the relative alienation of the design disciplines in the wake of the cultural politics of the 1960s. The course introduces the recent renewal of landscape architecture as a design medium and the coincident rapprochement between planning programs and schools of design. The course argues that this symmetrical reengagement derives from shifts within the built environment itself and the disciplines that describe it, promising a moment of tangency between the concerns and questions of landscape ecology and contemporary urbanism. The first third of the course includes a series of short historical cases, each describing the role of landscape and ecology in the commitments of urban planning and design in the second half of the 20th century. Among these are a brief overview of recent scholarship on the regional planning projects proposed by Mumford, MacKaye, and McHarg. This portion of the course includes an overview of the reception and perceived failures of the McHargian project. The projects and texts of Ludwig Hilberseimer are presented as an alternative to the McHargian tradition in which economic readings underpin an ecological approach to urban decentralization. This portion of the course closes with a rereading of various typologies of green modernist urbanism especially relevant to contemporary design culture including the mat, field, pattern, and patch. The second third of the course surveys the recent emergence of landscape as a medium of urban design, and the impact of that renewal on the disciplinary commitments of urban planning and design. These sessions describe various roles that ecology has played in the renewal of landscape as a medium of design, and rehearse various claims that have been made on behalf of landscape ecology as an agent of contemporary design culture. These sessions describes the role that ecological models and metaphors have had in contemporary architectural theory, and the recent absorption of that theory into urban design discourse. This portion of the course includes a survey of several recent projects that propose landscape and ecological process as drivers of contemporary urban design and development at the district, precinct, metropolitan, and regional scales. The final third of the course offers a provisional sketch of the prospects for an ecological urbanism. These sessions survey contemporary practices of and sites for urban design as informed by contemporary ecological thinking. The course concludes with subjects from contemporary design theory deserving of further reading including parametric urbanism, posthumanist ecology, the aeliatoric, and the artificial.