Spatial Analysis and the Built Environment

Urban planners engage in many complex processes that defy easy representation. This course provides first-semester urban planning students with the graphic and technical skills needed to reason, design, and communicate these processes with geospatial data. This knowledge will be embedded within a larger critical framework that addresses the cultural history of categorization, data collection, and cartography as tools of persuasion for organizing space. 

Visual expression is one of the most compelling methods to describe the physical environment, and students will learn techniques specifically geared toward clarifying social, political, and economic dynamics and how they relate the structuring of spaces. The class will introduce fundamentals of data collecting, data formatting, and data importing into a Geographic Information System (GIS) environment. 

Students will gain familiarity with the technical tools essential to GIS for making maps and exploring relationships in the physical, regulatory, and demographic dimensions of the landscape. Within GIS, students will learn the basics of geospatial processing to produce new forms of knowledge in support of ideas about urban planning and design. Desktop publishing tools, including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign will be used to distil ideas into effective graphic presentations. The class will also advance techniques for representing form and space through diagramming and three-dimensional modeling programs. 

Students will be introduced to workflows that demonstrate how to move effectively between data from these platforms and modes of representation. Class lectures will be complemented with technical workshops. 

1. Establish a conceptual framework for critically engaging the practices of mapping and data visualization. 
2. Provide a basic understanding of tools and techniques needed to reason, design, and communicate with geospatial data. 
3. Develop students’ skill and confidence for visualizing the complex processes, flows, and dependencies unique to the planning discipline. 

Prerequisites: Enrollment in the Urban Planning program.