ARCH 4509/6509
Urban Fluxus

Three vertical diagrams showing cities at night

The Masks of Los Angeles, Erik Jakob. image / Variable Typologies Studio, Naomi Frangos

  • Instructor: Naomi Frangos
  • Time: F 10:10 a.m.–12:05 p.m.
  • Location: 144 East Sibley Hall
  • Credits: 3
  • Territory of Investigation: Architecture and Representation, Architecture and Urbanism

"Map devices such as frame, scale, orientation, projection, indexing, and naming reveal artificial geographies that remain unavailable to human eyes . . . the surface of the map functions like an operating table, a staging ground, or a theatre of operations upon which the mapper collects, combines, connects, marks, masks, relates, and generally explores."

~James Corner

At a few thousand feet above the earth's surface, one notices intersecting lines, natural landmarks, or iconic structures. A city's grain, fibers, networks, nervous systems, connective tissue, hidden realms, natural evolution is marked by patterns, peripheries, edges, nodes, and centers that make up its various field conditions. Yet, as defined by theorist Stan Allen, field conditions are "bottom-up phenomena defined not by overarching geometrical schemas but by intricate local connections, [where] interval, repetition, and seriality are key concepts." Through evolutionary growth and decay, consistencies and interruptions, disturbances, and irregularities in the urban fabric created by geological, topographical, and environmental infrastructures, historical and cultural framings, social systems and political governance, etc., a city makes and remakes itself as a "macrofield" through unfinished "microworlds" — its grain and identity in constant "urban flux." This phenomenon is best understood through interscalar investigations. A few decades since Charles and Ray Eames' film The Power of Ten offered a revolutionary visualization of the importance of scale and interconnectivity of the universe to the nanoscale of human cells, Google maps along with GIS software and the ability to zoom in and out, rotate panoramic views, turn layers of data on and off, seemingly allows us to imagine and virtually experience multiple representations of the world. While statistics are generated through live-data tracking, what they don't perform is a critical analysis of the human and nonhuman relationships or effects of one data set to another, in the past, present, or future. This seminar seeks to unveil a city's hidden dimensions through interscalar analysis, a process that is part of and not precursor to productive design. Using a combination of readings, mappings, measuring devices, visualization, and representational techniques as vehicles for gaining insight into the dynamics of a city and its various forms of agency, students will study a particular city and construct a set of serial drawing-narratives that will also evolve to imagine and reconstruct a 'new city' as a possible future reality engaging multiple sites, ecologies, topologies, and scales. The classwork will culminate in a rigorously formatted Atlas of Urban Fluxus curated as a mini-exhibition/publication.

Instructor permission required:

Prerequisites: ARCH 1501-1502, ARCH 1802, ARCH 2301, ARCH 3301. This seminar involves making "artifact-drawings" as a mix of printed and digital material. Knowledge of Illustrator/Photoshop is encouraged. Knowledge of GIS software would be advantageous. This class is intended for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students.  Please email instructor:

  1. A 250-word statement of interest in the course
  2. Indicate/list how many mega cities you have been to and whether you visited or lived there
  3. A 250-word statement on what you think "Urban Fluxus" is about
  4. A three-to-five page PDF sample of your representation skills

View a PDF of this class description.