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.

Philadelphia: Urban Experience and Public Memory


This seminar will challenge students to encounter and interpret the city around them in unconventional ways.  At a time when public commemoration has vigorously and sometimes violently re-entered our country’s public discourse, we wish to re-examine how monuments, memory, politics, and our senses shape our understandings of Philadelphia’s past, present, and possible futures.  Our focus is on two intertwined themes: How we remember and What we remember.  Treating monuments, films, and historical texts as key forms of interpretation – the building blocks of an official if unstable “public past,” we will likewise attend to the “backdrop” of such written and built statements: everyday urban and domestic life as well as more public histories that have remained silent or risen to the surface at key moments.

Instructors: David Barnes, History and Sociology of Science, School of Arts and Sciences and Aaron Wunsch, Historic Preservation/Landscape Architecture, School of Design

CPLN 573 COML 572 Sinking/Floating: Phenomenologies of Coastal Urban Resilience


The premise of this interdisciplinary seminar is that the combination of design and environmental humanities will allow us to develop a complex sense of the interplay of infrastructure and affect in the lived and built environment of coastal cities already contending with sea level rise. Ranging temporally (from Mesopotamia to the dystopian futures of climate fiction) and geographically (from Venice and Rotterdam, from New York and New Orleans, to Jakarta and Dhaka, for example), the seminar explores an array of exemplary historical and present-day sites of delta urbanism as portrayed through views coming from the literary and design communities. We will engage directly with notable experts of design and water management (some of whom will be invited to the seminar) as well as works of literature, philosophy, history, and film.

Instructors: Eugenie Birch, City and Regional Planning, School of Design and Simon Richter, Germanic Languages and Literatures, School of Arts and Sciences

Media and Memories of the Future: Sound and Environment in Berlin


This seminar will discuss the cultural politics of memory as they develop through the spatial and sonic atmosphere of Berlin. As a city rich in history, and focused on the future, Berlin is a laboratory for how exploration of the recent past is re-scripting the near future. The city becomes a palimpsest—sonically, visually, and spatially—that is available for investigation and interpretation as a means to understand historical patterns and their relationship to novel practices and methods in the present.

The course will be centered around an analysis of both the cultural resonance of memory and also the role of history in future imaginaries. Media –in particular sonic and spatial – cultures will form a prism through which to understand cities, urban practices, and the transformation of the environment. Two of the main threads of this analysis involve the economics of real estate—as evidenced in the transformation from squatting culture to collective inhabitation—and the push towards energy efficiency in buildings and urban space, as evidenced in both regulatory and creative efforts towards refining practices of ecological design and construction. Both these threads are bound up with an increasing attentiveness to the role of sound in urban life: the emergence of techno in Berlin during the 1970s and 1980s was not only a soundtrack to but also an agent of transformation in the evolution of alternative spatial practices during that period, while more recent practices of ecological design sit alongside Berlin’s atypical sensitivity to urban sound design.

Instructors: Daniel Barber, Architecture, School of Design and Naomi Waltham-Smith, Music, School of Arts and Sciences

New York as Incubator of Twentieth-Century Urbanism: Four Urban Thinkers and the City They Envisioned


This course is constructed as an argument among four visionary thinkers whose differing views of the twentieth-century city were shaped
by their response to New York City’s modern urban, architectural, and environmental development: Lewis Mumford (1895–1990), Robert
Moses (1888–1981), Jane Jacobs (1916–2006), and Rem Koolhaas (1944–). The seminar explores the central problems that preoccupied
each, from civic representation and sustainability to large-scale infrastructure and urban renewal, from community and complexity to
urban experience and the urban imaginary. Readings of key texts by and about the four main figures are supplemented with related
material and with case studies of New York’s built environment. The class includes two trips to New York to visit selected sites. The focus
is double: on the role and agency of the “urban intellectual” in the production of urban culture; and on New York’s material history. New
York has been called the capital of the twentieth century. The seminar aims to assess the continuing relevance of the ideas of this quartet
of influential thinkers and to reflect on twenty-first-century New York in light of its evolution over the last hundred years.

Instructor: Joan Ockman, Senior Lecturer, Architecture, School of Design
TA:  LeeAnn Custer, PhD Candidate, History of Art, School of Arts and Sciences