Each year the H+U+D initiative will sponsor two undergraduate City Seminars, one devoted to a North American city and the other to a city overseas. The seminars will examine a single city in a detailed, multidisciplinary way that includes humanities and design. In addition, H+U+D will sponsor a graduate seminar that will be team taught with faculty from design and humanities disciplines. Topics for this seminar will be an outgrowth of the H+U+D Colloquium and change from year to year.

STSC/ARCH – Rio de Janeiro: Cosmopolitan Urbanism in the 21th century


The city of Rio de Janeiro has been an important site for the development of a range of urban and architectural strategies across the 20th century. This course will explore the recent history of urban change in the city as means to understand the multiple and contingent pressures placed on metropolitan centers in the 21st century, as well as the ways in which specific sites have been seen to anchor national, global, and universal processes and imaginaries. Students will travel to Rio de Janeiro over spring break.  Co-taught by Professors Daniel Barber, Architecture and John Tresch, History and Sociology of Science

Notes from the Seminar:RioTrip4

The course “Cosmopolitan Urbanism: Rio de Janeiro” has taken as its object of study the uneven ways in which urban development proceeds through international and universalist models. It is taught by Daniel Barber, Assistant Professor of Architecture in the School of Design, and John Tresch, Associate Professor in History and Sociology of Science in the School of Arts and Sciences. Rio is an ideal site, not only in that the city has increasingly faced pressure to enter the network of ‘global cities’ over the past few decades, but also because its urban development has been subject to so many different forces, both internal and external, since its founding.The first part of the course was spent examine the history of Rio in the context of the history of architecture and urban planning, on the one hand, and the history of universal tropes of science, positivism, and development on the other. Special attention was also paid to the importance of Rio as a site for the elaboration of Brazilian identity, and for how this has played our recently through the recent World Cup and the upcoming Olympics.


RioTrip5We then traveled to Rio and visited a heterogeneous collection of buildings and sites in order to explore the richness and diversity of the city. Some highlights: a visit inside the Palacio Capanema (also called the Ministry of Education and Heath, Lucio Costa, Oscar Niemeyer, et. al., 1936-1943); a tour of the renovations to the Pedregulho housing complex (Affonso Eduardo Reidy, 1947-1951); a soccer match at Maracana; and a visit to the Foundation Oswaldo Cruz including the Museum of Life and the original building that housed the laboratories for many of the public health experiments and vaccines that were so significant to the development of Brazil - and remain crucial to the region today. Now that we are back at Penn, students are hard at work preparing the collective project “RioAtlas: Cosmopolitan Urbanisms” in which they are expanding on their exploration of these different sites organizing them into a web-based interface. Students for the course are divided between the Architecture Department, History and Sociology of Science, and related fields. They are: Megan Bridges, Kahaari Kenyatta, Carissa Lim, Paul Marett, Martina Merlo, Ariela Osuna, Natalia Revelo, Monique Sager, Emma Schad, Emily Siegel, Sean Turner, and Lindsay Wong. We have also benefited from the experience of our TAs Erin Putalik, PhD Student in Architecture, and Rosanna Dent, PhD Candidate in History and Sociology of Science, and from the knowledge of Rio (and of Brazilian Portuguese) of Daniella Costa, a visiting scholar in Historic Preservation in the School of Design.


Students on the terrace of Palacio Capanema

Students on the terrace of Palacio Capanema

URBS/HIST 210 The City-Baltimore:


Through reading sociological, historical, theoretical, and primary texts, maps and photographs, and through ethnographic explorations and tours of the city, this course will explore the presence of the past in the city of Baltimore. It will examine the evolution of social, spatial and physical systems, different kinds of urban  and suburban places, and the encoding of wealth and power as well as inequality and  poverty on the urban landscape. Co-taught by Professors Eric Schneider, Assistant Dean and Michael Nairn, Urban Studies.

Notes from the Class:


The first stop in Baltimore was the field headquarters for Forest City, the master redeveloper for Science and Technology Park, one of the first phases of the East Baltimore Development Initiative.  There we met with Tamara Woods, City of Baltimore Community Planner for East Baltimore and Eric Holcomb, Executive Director for the Baltimore Commission for Historical & Architectural Preservation. Having studied Baltimore through The Wire for eleven weeks, we wanted to end the course on a note of optimism. Ms Woods brought up many interesting questions including:

  • How can the City encourage economic development in such severely disinvested neighborhoods?
  • Can one call the current redevelopment process gentrification when there was a neighborhood vacancy rate over 50% and most of the community institutions had failed?
  • For what population does one plan?
  • How does one make the existing residents whole in the face of such massive change?

Our students prepared by listening to a lecture on EBDI, looking at the literature on anchor institutions, in this case the Johns Hopkins Medical Complex, and by reading Clarence Stone’s article, “The Empowerment Puzzle:  In Pursuit of a New Dimension in Governing the City” (Stone, Clarence N., The Empowerment Puzzle: In Pursuit of a New Dimension in Governing the City (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper; American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2300658)

At MtVernonPlace

After lunch, we rode the water taxi from Fells Point to Fort McHenry. Because Baltimore’s history is that of a port and mercantile city, we wanted to experientially establish the centrality of the Bay as a major theme. The entire second season of The Wire focuses on the changing economic circumstances for union workers on the docks.

The third stop was Federal Hill, across the Inner Harbor from Central Baltimore. One of the first pieces we read was David Harvey’s, “A view from Federal Hill” in which he questions the logic of the capital structure that brought us such projects as the Charles Center. In the piece he analyzes the view as a portrait


The last stop was Mt Vernon Place up the hill from the central business district and the locus of 19th Century wealth. It is a grand place but allowed us to discuss much more about the history of capital and its deployment in 19th Century Baltimore.

Baltimore Classs

FREN/CPLN 300- The Making of Modern Paris:


An exploration of the city’s built environment as expressed in literature and in executed urban planning projects. Students will survey developments in the city from the post Revolutionary period to the mid-twentieth century. Included are readings from Hugo, Balzac, and Vernon and others. Projects ranging from works by Napoleon III and Haussmann to Mitterrand and Sarkozy to be examined. Course includes field trip to Paris during Spring Break. Co-taught by Professors Eugenie Birch, City and Regional Planning and Andrea Goulet, Romance Languages

Notes from the Seminar:

2015-03-09 12.23.27 (2)Twelve SAS and Wharton undergraduates, enrolled in FREN 300/CPLN300, The Making of Modern Paris are spending their Spring vacation in Paris where they are exploring the city, noting the sites portrayed in the 19th and 20th century fiction they have been reading while tracking the historical development and city planning efforts in the City of Lights. Their course, taught by Andrea Goulet, Associate Professor of French, Department of Romance Languages,, School of Arts and Sciences and Eugenie Birch, Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research, Department of City and Regional Planning, School of Design, assisted by Simon Mosbah, PhD candidate in City and Regional Planning and native of Paris, is funded by Penn’s Humanities, Design and Urbanism (H+U+D) project, funded by the Mellon Foundation to foster the integration of the Humanities and the Design professions around topics of urbanism. The program is sponsoring two international city seminars, this one on Paris and the other focused on Rio de Janiero, is taught by Daniel Barber, Assistant Professor of Architecture and John Tresch, Associate Professor, Department of History and Sociology of Science. In both instances, these courses represent the first time each team has taught together.

Tour of Opera de Paris Palais GarnierIn the French/City Planning course field trip, students are engaging in extensive walking tours of old and new Paris and visiting important exhibits – they caught one on Viollet-le-Duc (the restorer of Notre Dame and many other Parisian sites) and another on utopian visions of Paris that closed the day after their arrival. They crawled through the city’s underground limestone quarries and moved quickly through its famous sewers. They have traveled by Metro. streetcar and bus to the Bibliothèque nationale and new development on city’s outskirts and sat in boxes at the Opera Garnier. They have visited the Carnavalet (Museum of the City of Paris) and the Louvre. They have sampled crepes and falafel and are negotiating the local boulangeries for breakfast. They have walked the routes of Quasimodo and Esmeralda (from Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame of Paris) and visited Printemps and Galeries Lafayette to get a taste of the department store featured Emile Zola’s Ladies Paradise – novels they read in class before the trip. They are working in teams of two spending a full day, studying a site of their choice to understand both its physical design and expression in the arts. Student participants are: Daniella Castillo, Danielle Cerepnalkovic, Fangyu Chen, Andrea Davidson, Matthew Degagne, Shuhao Fan, Manuela Gonzalez, Kristen Kelly, Maria Manghi, Ethan Skaggs, Ciara Stein, and James Steitle.

See student pictures below.

Student pics of Paris