6 ECTS credits
This module considers the discussion on ecology and energy as an opportunity to reconsider the way cities are conceptualized. Existing perspectives which give priority either to its spatial structure or to the way cities function is being superseded by a more consistent and holistic view which overlays its structure (spatial structure and built systems), performance (climate and use through time) and its connections and exchanges with the environment.
The Post-modern conceptualization of cities has understood urbanization processes as a collection of independent fragments with distinct urban logics —from historic city centers and ensanches to suburbs— and as an artificial phenomenon developed in isolation from the territory in which it sits. Under this perspective urban development is fueled by economic development, forming constellations of fragments which have grown independently from the energy, matter and information flows that form the natural region where it is located. As a result, not a single conceptualization of the city has managed to understand in the same terms the urban realm and the natural territory.
However, in the last years this view is being challenged by the growing interest in ecology and ecological thinking in the ongoing urban, social and design debates. Drawing on past references such as the Odum brothers or Ian McHarg is challenging the once precise distinction between the non-human and human realms —nature and society, science and culture— which is in turn making explicit the exisiting entanglement between the city and its natural and social backdrops.
The aim of the course is delineate this new understanding of the city. To achieve this end, scientific and technical knowledge will be merged with its cultural contextualization. These two tracks, the technical and the theoretical, will crisscross throughout the course to transmit a critical perspective on energy and sustainability that can propel effective applications on design.
The module overlaps the lecture, seminar and workshop format. Based on case-studies, it includes an array of guest professors –featuring not only the design fields but other disciplines such as physics, ecology and applied engineering– among which speculative debate will be fostered. The module will be structured in the following blocks:
Since the 1960s the science of ecology has played an important role in the field of urbanism. These sessions will explore he role ecology has played first in the field of ecological planning and then in the field of landscape ecology to redefine the way in which cities are conceptualized.
Geography and infrastructure
During the last years the field of urban infrastructure is being redefined under the lens of ecology. From the scale of cities and urban regions to entire continents, the infrastructure which services it needs to be assessed from the vantage point of ecology. And this does not only mean analyzing infrastructures from an ecological dimension but, more importantly, understanding geography as an artificial infrastructure that needs to be designed and managed.
During the last decade there has been a growing interest to apply to cities the concepts and processes of the metabolism of natural ecosystems to cities. If the energy, matter and information flows which a city establishes with the wide range of scales it interacts with –from the region where it sits to the global geography— are understood, it can be redesigned to enhance its ecological, economic and social urban metabolism. The objective is to discuss which are the new design potentials urban metabolism is opening, and assess to what extent these can overlap with existing spatial, social and economic design strategies.
Up until recently microclimate design has focused on exploring the atmosphere within buildings. However, in the light of phenomena such as climate warming or heat-island effect, urban microclimate is gaining momentum. These sessions will discuss how the interactions between existing macroclimatic patterns and the spatial, material, economic and biological systems which form a city can be designed to achieve urban microclimates which meet human comfort demands.