Governing Cities by Design: the Built Environment as a Technology of Space

Undergrad course, Williams College (spring 2023), Instructor

Like in the classic era, cities of the 19th century were metaphors for government: good government could not exist without good governance of the city. This relationship between city and government became more critical after the unprecedented dynamics of industrialization and urbanization disrupted European cities in the first half of the century. This seminar charts the transformation of the built environment (architecture and urbanism) as a technology of space to govern cities and citizens from the mid-19th century until the present. Through debates and case studies across geographies and historical timeframes, we will analyze how regimes of government shape and are shaped by the built environment and urban political ecologies.

Using theoretical perspectives from urban studies, this seminar/workshop explores how the built environment, as a technology of space, contributes to the production of difference, the establishment of certain regimes of power, and the erasure of specific urban histories–mainly those of underrepresented groups. Students will engage in multimedia place-based projects to imagine and create more equitable built environments.