Knowing Cities

Visual Studies

Spring 2013

Leah Meisterlin, instructor

Knowing Cities was a workshop intended to introduce students to techniques and concepts of spatial research. The course title was derived from the often overlooked relationship between methodology and epistemology in the research processes used and products created by architects, whether their investigations serve as the basis for design propositions or as stand-alone urban inquiry projects. At its core, the course asked students to think critically about the connections between how we learn about cities and what we know about cities. While the workshop taught several technical skills, fundamental to the course was an ongoing discussion on the meaning of terms such as rigor, research, data, statistic and ultimately knowledge within an urban environment.

As a final deliverable, students were asked to design a small, geographic information systems-based research project that pairs the physical conditions of a site with the socio-cultural and political situation of place. In working toward that deliverable, the class focused on a particular set of technical skills while couching those techniques within pertinent theories of space, urban development and representation. The course included a brief history of mapping and its role in knowledge generation, through the act of research, the representation of findings and the proliferation of research-based imagery, while simultaneously challenging students to move beyond that history.