The (New) Image of the City

The rest of the 21st century is being drawn right now. More than ever before,  organizations and individuals rely on projective images that indicate their aspirations or goals while simultaneously stimulating an audience's imagination and emotions. At the same time, imagery is leveraged to uncover, celebrate, or critique our latent urban structures. In the wake of COVID-19, the value of a designer's ability to illustrate new ways of life has increased as we collectively imagine future 'new normals'. And yet, designers may also need to prepare to move away from the pre-pandemic aspiration for the 'perfect' or 'resolved' towards more blurriness, openness, or dynamism to relate to a public audience wary of false promises of past projects. Designers with a robust representational repertoire will be those best suited to communicate their ideas and impact change in the coming generation.

This course investigates how society perceives cities, their landscapes and architecture, and the designer's role in mobilizing imagery to digest existing conditions and project new urban possibilities. Part historical dive, part technical workshop, the class moves between investigations into the historical development of cities through image and instruction on the fundamental two and three-dimensional representational techniques involved in visualizing the vast array of inevitably convoluted and undetermined aspects of urbanity. The class will review how the city's evolution has been represented over time in urban design, landscape architecture, architecture, art, politics, and culture while developing new techniques and methods for representing latent urban conditions and uncertain futures.

Structured around participatory lectures, discussions, and exercises, the course necessitates students' ability to consume, interpret, and produce. In addition to readings and discussions, students will work through a series of exercises that visualize a chosen urban condition at a series of scales and correlated perspectives. These exercises break down the process of image conception and execution over several weeks. Each scale builds on top of the previous and forms a composite image of a particular city when assembled. The final assignment will be curating the work produced to form a visual atlas through a whole class exhibition.

Students should take this course because they will learn how to maximize the potency of the images that they create. They will learn to integrate image crafting into the design process. They will learn the fundamentals and basis for harnessing the power of the image to supplement their intellectual and design ambitions. Students will create impactful visual content structured by meaning, beauty, and emotion. They will develop an eye for strong images and understand how individual details such as composition, tone, texture, and light strengthen the larger picture. A student who successfully engages with the course content will emerge with the conceptual and technical capacity to create compelling images that challenge the conventions of representation while also speaking to a broad audience.

The course is for designers of all types. While we will use the term 'urban' to connote the ecological complexity of our contextual focus, designers from various disciplines are encouraged to bring their expertise to the group. Rendering techniques, both in engine and post-production, will be covered extensively and expertise is either is not a prerequisite. However, a strong foundation in 3D modeling with Rhino is expected, as is a curiosity and determination to test and acquire new skills and perspectives.


Up to five seats will be held for MDes students.

This course will be taught online through Friday, February 4th.