ARC 591

ARC 591– Urban Ground and Substrate

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Course Details

Course No.: 22756

Department: Architecture

Semester: 2017 Fall

Location: Hayes Hall – 401

Meeting Day(s): Thursday

Meeting Time: 11:00AM - 1:40PM

Faculty: Burkholder, Ozay

The seminar focuses on the ground of the city and its substrate. Much of our world is regulated by processes under our feet. The organization of the ground, building of soil, transportation of resources, and slow movement of the lithosphere itself, enable crucial systemic and logistic mechanisms necessary for our collective survival in the urban landscape. We construct our collective spaces in and around these configurations taking place on and below the skin of our environment, often forgotten or unconsidered until the moment they can no longer be ignored.


Organized in two parts, the seminar looks at below and above the city ground in sequence, in order to provide an introduction to how natural, engineering, and planning processes impact our environments at different time and spatial scales, concentrating on both performative and formal aspects. We will consider the city itself in place, unavoidably connected to its various contexts as a way to both understand and critique urban forms and processes.  The course will concurrently use the subject matter as a way to develop practical technical skills for both the Urban Design and Ecological Practices studio sequences by covering the following material:

  • Basic instruction in GIS and suitability mapping
  • Introduction to digital terrain modelling and manipulation
  • Development of basic and critical skills in surveying and site assessment
  • Introduction to basic subsurface engineering practices and technologies used in the urban environment
  • Exposure to the basic components of urban ecology and their application
  • Methods for leveraging subsurface potentials as agents for design
  • Definitions and foundations of urban design
  • Matters of preservation and participation in urban development
  • Issues of urban design and development in post-industrial, weak market cities
  • Shortcomings of normative urban design practices
  • Theories and politics of urban ground