Ecological Urbanism weds the theory and practice of city design and planning, as a means of adaptation, with the insights of ecology (the study of the relationships among living organisms and their environment and the processes that shape both) and other environmental disciplines. Ecological urbanism is critical to the future of the city and its design: it provides a framework for addressing challenges that threaten humanity, such as climate change, rising sea level, declining oil reserves, rising energy demands, and environmental and social justice, while fulfilling human needs for health, safety, and welfare, meaning and delight.

Planning the Just City: The Role of Youth and History

For the past several years, the class has focused on green gentrification, a process whereby public investment in green infrastructure and other environmental improvements in low-income neighborhoods attracts wealthier residents and leads to speculation, increase in property values, and displacement of low-income residents. The class proposed solutions to the dilemma: how to improve a place and, simultaneously, protect the long-term tenure of low-income residents. A consensus emerged that the promotion of youth is essential to any long-term solution to gentrification and displacement.

This year, the class will focus on the education and empowerment of youth as key to promoting socio-economic equity, offsetting gentrification, and redressing systemic racial and environmental injustice. Together with middle-school students at Locke, a public school in West Philadelphia's low-income, predominantly Black, Mill Creek neighborhood, we will trace the environmental and social history of the neighborhood, learn to read that history in its landscape, and employ that knowledge in envisioning its future. Mill Creek -- the neighborhood and the buried river that flows beneath it -- has a rich history. It is also a testament to failures of urban development, policies, and planning from the 19th century to the present.

We will begin the semester with an overview of the historical and ecological context of the Mill Creek neighborhood and weekly session with the eighth-grade students, in which we will explore successive historical periods, using primary documents and the landscape itself, as preparation for designs and plans. The Locke School, built in the 1960s, sits on the buried floodplain of Mill Creek, which was buried in a sewer in the 1880s. Within a three-block radius are places of great historic significance, not only for understanding the environmental and social history of the community, but also the history of the nation. During the second half of the semester, MIT And Locke students will produce designs for a community garden and park on vacant land where residents want to commemorate Mill Creek history. This site in "The Bottom" on Mill Creek's buried floodplain is also ideal for stormwater detention. Construction is slated for summer 2024, and Locke School students have been asked to propose ideas.

The class builds on more than three decades of action research in the West Philadelphia Landscape Project and the experience of local community activists.

Student work will be evaluated in four ways: class attendance and contribution to discussions (20% of final grade); the weekly journal (40%); the final proposal, presented and posted on class website 40%).

Please refer to MIT's policy on academic integrity. Students with documented disabilities or any other problem that may affect ability to perform in class should see me early in the semester so arrangements may be made for accommodation. For more information on academic accommodation, see MIT's Division of Student Life.

Enrollment is limited to ten students.