This is the blog of the Understanding Cities and Spatial Cultures course, part of the Bachelor in Arts and Sciences (BASc) programme at University College London.
Understanding how the built environment affects ‘society’ and how ‘society’ affects the built environment is a fundamental problem in the ‘human sciences’ and one fraught with difficulties from a research perspective. However, parallel developments in social theory, network science and architectural analysis over the past decade or so have provided the theoretical and methodological equipment for much innovative work in this area, which directly informs this module.
It is likely that everyone alive will be living in cities by the end of this century. Cities are the most successful vehicles for upward social mobility that we have invented -they are a source of innovation, technological progress and increasing personal wealth. Cities are currently being transformed from places where flows of energy are being replaced by information. They are becoming smart. To grasp this future, we must understand how cities have evolved in the past, how they grow and live in the present, and how they provide incubators for future development. However, it is equally necessary to acknowledge that there can be a human cost to urban life. In order to understand what cities mean to people, we also need to consider what a genuinelyarchitectural approach to researching urban environments would look like; the sort of theories and methodologies it would need and the kind of contribution to knowledge it could make. This module will address these issues through exploring the idea of the city and the distinctive ‘spatial cultures’ they incubate.
This course will stimulate students to describe, analyse, reflect upon and consider the broader implications of life in cities from historical and contemporary perspectives while looking ahead to a range of possible urban futures. The course content is structured around three distinctive modes: ‘networked people’, ‘networked cities’ and ‘global networks’ that approximate to different network scales at which urban questions can be approached. It will link well with other modules with a broad built environment or material culture perspective.