This course examines environmental histories of the 20th century—the alignments and contradictions of environmentalism and new technical environments—through the engineered landscapes of urbanization. Through case studies, the course will critically investigate the documentation of constructed terrestrial, hydrological, and botanical worlds created principally for human habitation. We will focus on gathering and evaluating visual material of drawings, photographs, and print media as evidence of material and cultural change, with critical interest in the undeclared, fleeting, and sometimes unwelcome presence of living systems and ecologies in official accounts of technical lands. The case studies presented will focus on built infrastructure and design projects in North American cities and regions, but students are invited to bring their own subjects for independent research.
Through this work, we will collectively develop design research methods and methodologies for constructing site through broader nature/culture relations at multiple spatial and temporal scales. This will occur through the development of an argument through the presentation of visual material, production of analytical drawings, and discussion of these materials in class. Students will make use of archives and special collections across the University for primary source research, mobilizing techniques from material culture studies, historical ecology, and visual sociology with guest lectures by ecologists, art historians, and archivists. The course will consist of lectures, 2-3 field trips to local archival resources, and the development of a research project over the course of the semester. All disciplines are welcome.