Constructing History: Architecture and Alternative Histories of New York (Spring 2021)

Prof. Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis (MALS, The Graduate Center)

Prof. Jason Montgomery (Architectural Technology, City Tech)

Architecture and the built environment are products of their social, political, and economic circumstances. New York City, a perpetually evolving metropolis, has been shaped by successive waves of immigration, shifting economic priorities (from agriculture and manufacturing to finance and technology), and politics. Today, the impact of gentrification, the lack of affordable housing, and climate change is evident in New York City’s built environment. This is not a new story, but one that has been intrinsic to New York City since its founding. Therefore, rather than relying on the written record as the main evidence for exploring New York’s history, this course will introduce students to the built environment and use the urban fabric of New York–its buildings, streets, and places, along with primary source materials about these edifices from libraries and archives–to construct alternative histories of the city. Erected, used, and inhabited by people of all colors, creeds, socio-economic backgrounds and cultures, architecture and the built environment allows us different insights into the development of New York’s history, inviting us to develop alternative stories about the city’s past. The study of architecture and the built environment is inherently interdisciplinary. Students will be introduced to diverse research methods and will be tasked with conducting place-based research on New York City’s built environment during site visits and visits to archives and libraries. The students in the course will have an opportunity to generate new knowledge about New York City, its built environment, and people.

Note: This course was originally scheduled for Fall 2020, but has been postponed to Spring 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns.

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