From Fallow: Equitable Futures for Landscapes of Injustice

Property abandonment is prevalent in places of disinvestment, where vulnerable communities bear the burden of untended land alongside structural racism, unjust policies, uneven capital distribution, and an inability to access education, healthcare and municipal services. 

There is a relationship between the socio-economic and political well-being and the physical attributes of the land, the practices of its care, and its ownership status. The United States often privileges models of individual property ownership, where there are systems in place for acquisition and economic growth but not disposition, collectivity, ecological work and potential.

It is no secret that vacant lots have long vexed cities—especially the architects, landscape architects, urban designers, planners and citizens living and working in them. In the past few decades hundreds of design ideas for abandoned property have emerged. Some remain purely speculative, while others have been tested and implemented. Meanwhile, neither the preoccupation with nor the accruement of abandoned property has abated.

Now, there is an urgency for propositions for how we can address the inequities of our urban environment, for visions for the city moving forward. Amidst so much negative attention, designers play a fundamental role in developing ideas that bring hope as well as other means of property distribution and care.

In this course, we will construct the American landscape of property investment and abandonment—and engage this landscape to form alternative models for the care of these complex spaces. 

We will look intently at the present lived condition, as a reflection of a complex past, in order to imagine equally rich and varied futures. In many of these examples, it is a matter not so much of making drastic change to the sites themselves, as drastically reimagining how we approach them.

Students will tackle particular contexts and themes towards a collective body of work. 

This course is open to all students but requires a basic understanding of urban development history and strong graphic skills.