Mapping Urbanization

Urbanization is often framed in terms of human agglomeration. The opening line of the most recent United Nations population dynamics report states that 60% of global population will live in urban areas by 2030, with one in three living in cities with populations exceeding 500,000. While revealing, such metrics positioning urban vs. rural limit the scope of urbanization to the creation, expansion, and densification of cities for human dwelling. Human impact on the world abides not by administrative boundaries. On the contrary, agricultural land – land directly or indirectly devoted to human sustenance – outsizes land devoted to human dwelling 50 to 1.

Urbanization, as material upheaval supporting human metabolism, therefore defies any single notion of boundary, scale, or material composition. Rigorous study of urbanization should capture the dynamics and forms that animate urban life. This includes the temporal encounters and frictions with architecture, nature, mobility systems, legal and political structures, material surfaces, service flows, and more. Drawing the built form of cities is a first step to capturing these interrelationships, but unraveling deliberately opaque dynamics that produce urban life is the true goal.

Mapping Urbanization equips students with the skills to visualize both the ever-changing composition of cities and their metabolic annexes. Through technical workshops, lectures, and spirited reading discussions, students will learn to unpack and draw the aforementioned processes from specific points of view with intended audiences in mind. Moreover, students will develop an intuition for the multiplicity of data. Arguments about the city can be made in either direction, depending upon how data is harnessed. Mapping is therefore both analysis and possibility – making it an indispensable tool to understand and communicate the multi-scalar forms, processes, and systems comprising urbanization.