Infrastructures and Urban Theories (COMS 681)

“The telegraph symbolically follows the railroad; the telephone, with kindred symbolism, follows the motor highway. So much for the business end of communication.” Lewis Mumford (1925)

Energy lines, water conduits, transportation nodes, roads and communication systems are the key physical and technological structures for the organization of modern cities. This seminar will focus on how these infrastructures are used by architects as both aesthetic and discursive elements in visionary proposals for cities. Starting from the late nineteenth century, the seminar group will draw on both primary historical sources and current analysis to engage in critical discussions on the role of the infrastructures in the rise of modern urban theories. We will explore how the devices developed by various inventors and corporations impacted the shared landscape and, in turn, how the professional practice of engineering was absorbed by modernist architects and urban planners and synthesized as a new kind of technological vision of both town and country. Course material will include architects’ writings, and history of technology, geography and media studies.

View complete course outline: COMS681A2010 [.pdf]