Course description

City Visions: New Approaches in Understanding the Contemporary City
How do we define the contemporary city? How do we observe and represent our fluctuating urban conditions? What instruments of analysis and representation are most suitable to study the city today? How can we we identify and scrutinize the social, political and economic processes that are transforming our urban milieu? Who inhabits the city and how do they define their own spaces? The course explores changes in definition, observation and representation of the contemporary city and territory. Through the examination of a series of interdisciplinary and project-based study cases the course will examine experiences that have succeeded in triggering novel readings of specific urban conditions and paradigmatic changes in the representation of contemporary urban space.

The course will be developed through a combination of lectures, reading sessions and practical assignments that are intended as an application some of the methods and descriptive techniques presented in the study cases. The field of study for the practical exercises will be the city of Montreal, where the premise of the course, in terms of understanding if the discussed theoretical elaborations and aesthetical practices can be used as instruments of analysis in conditions different to those in which they were created, will be tested and assessed.

The study of different techniques of representation and theoretical formulation regarding visions of the city will be the principal material of the course. Film, photography, philosophy, social sciences, architectural and urban research will be analyzed and discussed in order to compare their incidence in the comprehension and reformulation of the contemporary urban realm. Classes combine film screenings, text and image analysis, open discussion, and in situ experimentation. 

Themes of study include:
_ The specificity of the point of view: Buckminster Fuller’s icosahedron world, Edward Tufte’s Escaping Flatlands, James Corner and Alex MacLean’s Across the American Landscape.
_ The experience of modernity in the metropolis. Walter Benjamin, Les passages de Paris, Georg Simmel, The metropolitan and mental life.
_ Experiments of derive. Guy Debord and the Situationist Movement, Francesco Carreri, Walking as measurement
_ The city as a palimpsest of signs. Robert Venturi and Denis Scott Brown, Learning from Las Vegas.
_ Narratives of urban dispersion. Dan Graham, David Byrne’s True Stories, Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, Mike Davis’s dark LA.
_ The city without context. Rem Koolhaas, The Generic City,
_The eclectic atlas, Stefano Boeri, Multiplicity
_ The architecture catalogue as a research method. Atelier Bow Wow, Made in Tokyo, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Archetypes, Mark Dion.
_ Terrain Vague. Empty sites in contemporary visual representation.
_ Strategies of urban occupation in contemporary art.

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