2004 City as Image
The first Urban Books seminar was divided into three parts: City as Text, City as Image, and City as Subject. Each section combined readings, research and design activities. For their final projects, students selected a theme related to the urbanization of St. Louis, how it has been imagined as a contemporary, post-industrial metropolis, and how it has been represented through urban images. The students books were displayed alongside the newly curated Urban Books Collection in an exhibition at Olin Library titled, The City as Subject: Urban Books, held December 13, 2004-February 21, 2005.
2005 Water/Asphalt Authors S-Z
The 2005 seminar "Water and Asphalt" was organized to specifically compliment the theme of that year’s International Istanbul Architecture Biennale. Each student selected a topic relating the general theme to the urbanization of St. Louis and explored aspects of how this metropolitan area has been influenced by two major forces: the Mississippi River and the highway system. Final projects were displayed in Istanbul and a catalog was produced.
“[…]scapes” was the general theme for the seminar in 2006. We looked at landscape as a historic and social construct, starting from the term landscape in the historic sense of visual and land-shaping as defined by landscape painting. We further explored the ideas of the sublime and picturesque that gained currency with Romanticism and examined contemporary definitions culminating in anthropologist Arjun Appadurai's plural definition of landscapes as imaged and imagined worlds under globalization. His proposition overlaps the traditional term landscape with five social and political dimensions ethnoscape, technoscape, finanscape, ideoscape, and mediascape which are different modes of perception of the physical and cultural environment. Each student related the general theme to the urbanization of St. Louis, and presented aspects of how the metropolitan area has been imagined, represented, and produced through images.
2007 Focus on Activism
Taking its cue from the verb to act, the seminar in 2007 focused on the myriad ways that artists and architects act in an urban environment. It began with a 4-week lecture series, bringing together urban activists of all varieties in the fields of art, urbanism, landscape architecture, architecture, design, and community work. We used the theory of the Dérive and other Situationist writings on the city as the starting point for creative work. Final projects had to be based on some sort of action, many of which were interventionist in nature. The Dérive books and the final projects were exhibited in two separate exhibitions at the Kranzberg Art and Architecture Library.