The Idea of Environment

The environment is the milieu in which designers and planners operate. It is a messy world of facts, meanings, relations and actions that calls them to intervene – i.e., to make a plan, solve a problem, create a product, or strategize a process. They use various measures to assess and project their interventions from beauty and efficiency to systems and sustainability. Increasing volatility and uncertainty of the environment, however, alongside a growing sense and presence of crises and disasters has seen the rise today of the idea of resilience as a measure of intervention.

This class explores the environment through six forms by which it is imaged and imagined, defended and critiqued, planned and designed. Each gathers distinct modes of representation, means of visualization, and measures by which they are engaged, planned and designed. The six forms of environment are:

1. Geographic Space:
maps and plans; Apollo’s Eye; and the measure of space/time

2. Urban Infrastructure:
cities and regions; Geddes’ Valley Section; and the measure of solution/failure

3. Cultural Context:
histories and texts; Reflective Gaze; and the measure of meaning/difference

4. Development Trajectory:
needs and economies; Homo Economicus; and the measure of growth/sustainability

5. Ecological Relations:
natures and systems; Thoreau’s Walking; and the measure of dependency/autonomy

6. Temporal Dynamics:
seas and rivers; Aqua Fluxus; and the measure of complexity/resilience

The course is designed as a lecture + seminar + workshop. Each class will begin with a presentation by the instructor that situates the idea of environment in an argumentative framework. It will serve to frame a class discussion informed by readings, life experiences, and design possibilities. The last hour will be spent critiquing and developing student\’s projects on articulating particular risk environments toward resilience.

Evaluation: Contribution to class discussions, biweekly contribution to workshop, and final project presented in an exhibition/review format.