H+U+D Launches Four New Courses in Spring 2018!—


In its final year, the H+U+D initiative invested in the creation of four new courses to attract students from across the university at both graduate and undergraduate levels. The courses each pair a faculty member from the Schools of Design and Arts and Sciences to co-create and co-teach a course that explore cities from the dual perspectives of the humanities and design disciplines. The city seminar courses focus on one city in depth for undergraduates and include travel to the city under study. This semester students will be traveling to New York and Berlin. Students in “New York as Incubator for the Twentieth Century” will study four urban visionaries influence by New York City. In “Media Memories and the Future: Sound and Environment in Berlin,” students will use the city as a  a palimpsest—sonically, visually, and spatially—to investigate and interpret historical patterns and their relationship to novel practices and methods in the present. The graduate problematics seminar takes a theme and tackles it using methods of inquiry from both the humanities and design disciplines. Students will be studying coastal cities and how infrastructure needs contend with sea level rise in “Sinking and Floating: Phenomenologies of Coastal Urban Resistance.” A fourth course, “Philadelphia: Urban Experience and Public Memory,” explores how monuments. memory, politics and sensory experience shape understandings of Philadelphia’s past, present and future.  For more information

Deadline Extended for City Seminar Proposals—


The Mellon Humanities, Urbanism and Design (H+U+D) Initiative requests proposals for undergraduate city seminar courses and course development funds. Attached please find the full RFP that details the application process. 

Next year (2017-18) the initiative will sponsor two city seminars: one international and one domestic. Please see our website for descriptions of previous seminars here. The seminar should examine one city in a detailed, multidisciplinary way that incorporates both the humanities and design. Please consult HUD Course Development RFP for full application information. 

The deadline for proposals is April 21 , 2017. Proposals should be submitted to Mary Rocco at mrocc@design.upenn.edu. 

For questions, please contact Genie Birch at elbirch@design.upenn.edu or David Brownlee at dbrownle@sas.upenn.edu.

New H+U+D Courses for Spring 2016—


For Spring 2016, H+U+D will sponsor several new course for undergraduates and one graduate seminar. Thanks to our new Mellon H+U+D Jr. Fellows, we will add two new courses to our multidisciplinary offerings.

ARCH-314 Fantastic Cities
This seminar introduces the notion of the city, or polis, as a powerful current in our cultural imagination, provoking both fear and desire. Through architectural theory, literature, and film, we will examine representations of Rome, Berlin, New York, Lagos, and a series of utopian and dystopian imagined cities. Course taught by Dr. Christina Svendsen, Mellon H+U+D Fellow
HIST 233- Improvised Cities in the Modern World: Between Design and Urban Informality 
The course examines the formation of the improvised or “informal” city in historical context, considering this as a global phenomenon, whether framed as slum, shantytown, bidonville, favela, katchi abadi, human settlement, etc. It traces the shifts in design professionals’ conceptions of and responses to the improvised city, ranging from the confident assertions of order expressed by early reform housing and urban renewal projects, to experiments with self-help and design for progressive development, and more recent targeted interventions aimed at achieving incremental improvements or upgrading. Course taught by Dr. Helen Gyger, Mellon H+U+D Fellow.

Back by popular demand, The City: Baltimore co-taught by Professor Eric Schneider, History and Professor Michael Nairn, Urban Studies will once again explore the history of the city and its institutions using HBO’s series The Wire as a core text.

URBS/HIST 210- The Wire and The City
This semester Urbs/Hist 210 will focus on Baltimore and use The Wire as one of its core “texts.” The course will explore the history and development of the city and its institutions, with a topical focus on issues such as industrialization and deindustrialization; urban renewal and the role of universities; public education; policing and the criminal justice system; drugs and underground markets; institutions; public housing; and Baltimore’s so-called renaissance amidst persistent poverty. The seminar will include field trips both in Philadelphia and a concluding all-day trip to Baltimore.

Finally, we will be offering a graduate student seminar, co-taught by Professor Naomi Waltham-Smith, Music and Professor Francesca Ammon, City and Regional Planning.

HSPV 638 / MUS 621 Cities and Sound: The Spatial Politics and Practices of Sound in Modern Urban Life This seminar will examine the role of sound in shaping modern urban spaces and life. While music plays a large part in the sounds of the city, we will focus on soundscapes more broadly. From the late 19th century through the present, and in geographies spanning from Paris to Philadelphia, we will explore the making, meaning, and experience of sound for varied populations; the politics of sound as an instrument of power; and the policies of noise regulation.

Students launch website with lessons learned during H+U+D city seminar in Rio—


Students from the H+U+D sponsored city seminar, “Cosmopolitan Urbanism: Rio de Janeiro,” created a website that explore the uneven ways in which urban development proceeds through international and universalist models. The course was 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. Students and faculty traveled to Rio over spring break and visited  a number of buildings and sites to explore the richness and diversity of the city. The website expands the experience into an atlas of  the buildings and sight along with commentary created by the students. Click her to visit.

Lessons from Rio de Janeiro Inform Collective Class Project for H+U+D City Seminar—

Students on the terrace of Palacio Capanema

Students on the terrace of Palacio Capanema

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. We 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.

Renovations at Pedregulho.

Renovations at Pedregulho.


Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Museo de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, 1952-57


“Making of Modern Paris, ” Course Travels to the City of Light under the Humanities + Urbanism + Design Program funded by the Mellon Foundation—


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.

In 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.

H+U+D International City Seminars Depart for Paris and Rio de Janeiro—

View on Paris

Paris, France

The H+U+D Initiative’s first city seminar courses departed Philadelphia for explorations abroad during Penn’s spring break. In an effort to integrate the humanities and design disciplines around the study of cities, H+U+D sponsored two international courses. Each seminar is co-taught by two faculty, one  from the humanities and one from design. This semester H+U+D’s Co-Director Dr. Eugenie Birch, City and Regional Planning, and H+U+D colloquium participant, Dr. Andrea Goulet, Romance Languages, ventured with students to Paris to study the connections between city planning and French literature. Dr. Daniel Barber, Architecture, also a H+U+D colloquium participant teamed up with Dr. John Tresch, History and Sociology of Science, traveled with their students to Rio de Janeiro to study topics related to cosmopolitanism in the 21st century.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil