This research-based seminar considers the relationships between architectural and urban design and struggles for social change. Geared towards advanced students who have some knowledge of architectural or planning history, the course encourages students to interrogate the multi-faceted ways in which visionary designers have confronted the social realities of the built environment as well as the ways in which practitioners of the built environment confront the design principles deployed by architects, urban planners, and landscape architects. Through readings, class discussions, and project-based learning, we will address the ways in which social activists formed alliances both with and against these designers in struggles for affordable housing, land tenure, and rights to the city. We will also consider the role of graphic design and illustration in communicating the aims and goals of various space-based social movements. Examples we will investigate include: squatter activists in Harlem; the autonomia movement in Italy and Germany; DIY urbanism; the self-build movement of the 1970s; the landless people's movement of South Africa; the landless workers' movement in Brazil; the Young Lords' garbage offensive; the cooperative housing movement in the U.S.; and the self-sufficiency movement at Arcosanti and elsewhere.
Additionally, the seminar concerns itself with public humanities--how research and scholarship about the built environment can be interpreted and represented for a general audience. Thus, we will focus on translating our analyses of design in social movements through various media, such as websites, mobile applications, films, podcasts, and print media. As such, parts of the course will be spent in digital media workshops where you will learn to use the tools of digital representation to interpret and communicate information gleaned through research and scholarship. These media workshops will culminate in a final project where you will present original research for public consumption through a specific medium.