Course Description

Can new technologies incorporating distributed sensing and computation, big and open data, real-time indicators, quantitative modeling, robust translation engines, and social media give us the opportunity to improve our cities and adapt to changing conditions? How do we decide what constitutes improvement, and who’s interests do these improvements serve? Can interactive technologies aggregate small scale interactions into responsive participatory systems?  Can distributed energy and waste systems leapfrog brittle aging infrastructure and generate new enterprises that radically improve environmental performance? What is happening when the drones come home? How are business and community interests aligned given the resource intensive requirements of many of these systems?  Can we hack food and food systems so that we don’t only reduce food miles, eliminate petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides but develop nutritious foods that actually improve environmental health, increase biodiversity and remediate the urban-rural axis?  And why do we distribute our food in such a way that it gives our children asthma and compromises the cardiovascular health of each one of us—can’t we change that?  And  the manufacturing sector--the most toxic of all human activities--how do we facilitate manufacturing innovations that improve labor conditions, reduce environmental costs and increase productivity? This course answers the above questions and more, surveying promising strategies, technologies, and structures of participation to drive the design of resilient technical, political and socio-ecologic systems.

The Climate crisis has revealed a more insidious crisis: the crisis of agency --aka:what to doin the face of shared, uncertain threat; challenging our political agency, our cultural imagination and our scientific and economic understanding. We examines how we can respond to the challenges of the C21, not only with serious concern, research, legislation, but the creative imaginary to plan how we seize the “smart city’ opportunity to create the participatory processes and resilient urban ecosystems that improve the human and environmental health and co-produce the desirable, highly productive and humane cities.

Lecture Topics:

  • On Air
  • On Water  
  • On Energy and Waste and why Waste=Energy
  • On Animals and BiodiverCITY
  • On Plants
  • On Soil
  • On Mobility  (and rediscovering the Sport in Transport)
  • On Power
  • On People
  • On Drones
  • On HowStuffisMade and HowItCanChange
  • On Political Agency in a Climate Crisis
  • Introducing formulations of agency and Copenhagen


These case studies examine projects that have effected  discussion:

  • Masdar: what is wrong and right with Masdar City
  • Reykjavik, Iceland: reconstructing the city in economic meltdown
  • Lewisham, London
  • Bronx, NY
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Lausanne, Switzerland
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Bristol, England