Planetary Urbanization: Theoretical Foundations and Frontiers

This seminar is the first in a series of courses that will develop the research agenda of the newly founded Urban Theory Lab-GSD (UTL-GSD)—to investigate the contemporary “urban revolution” that, as Henri Lefebvre anticipated over four decades ago, has entailed the complete urbanization of the entire planet. In the early 21st century, such an investigation requires considerable conceptual and methodological innovation, not least because inherited approaches to urban theory and research take for granted the very distinction between city and non-city spaces that is today being superseded.
Against this background, this seminar is organized into three main parts. First, we survey the legacies of city-centric epistemologies and cartographies in both mainstream (Chicago School) and radical (Marxist) approaches to urban theory. Second, we consider Henri Lefebvre’s pathbreaking interventions of the early 1970s, with particular attention to his core concepts of generalized urbanization, implosion-explosion and planetary space. Third, we consider recent interventions in geography, sociology, architecture, planning and design that advance theory and research on the contemporary problematique of planetary urbanization.
Participants will be required to write weekly reactions to assigned readings. The main assignment will be to develop a research or design proposal that builds upon and extends the major lines of analysis developed in the course.
Future courses in the Project on Urbanization will explore the historical and contemporary geographies of planetary urbanization while developing new conceptual tools and methods for analyzing—and shaping—its local and global crystallizations.