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. 

Course format: This course will meet via Zoom on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Wednesday meetings will typically begin with a 30-minute discussion of the day's reading assignment, followed by a 30-minute in-class exercise, which will often be a drawing exercise that can be done away from a computer. Wednesday sessions will conclude with a 30-minute discussion of key lessons and take-aways from that in-class exercise. An independent assignment will be assigned each Wednesday and due the following Monday. In Monday class sessions, students will present their work and receive feedback from their classmates and the instructor. Friday software tutorials will be also be offered on Friday mornings from 9am to noon. Attendance at these sessions is optional, and they will be recorded for students to view on-demand if they are unable to attend synchronously.

Prerequisites: Enrollment in the Urban Planning program.