What urban design practices are needed in areas that have decline, are in decline or simply are not growing? What if we let the city decline or go wild? What if we look at decay, ruin, wilderness and depopulation as something other than a crisis? This seminar examines experimental urban land management and preservation practices – practices that embrace systems of emergent, wild and unexpected urbanism, but also raise questions of austerity and democratic rights to the land. With foundational readings as guide, students will explore topics of state landbanking and autonomous land trusts, managed depletion (including St. Louis’ infamous “Team Four” memorandum), wilderness conservation and “greenway” creation, agricultural land reclamation, homesteading in and deconstruction of vacant buildings, tactics for fighting absentee owners and experimental preservation practices. Starting with grounding readings in principles of the American orientation to wilderness, ecological vitality and urbanism, the seminar explores the modern history of efforts to harness decline, vacancy, depletion and no-growth as productive forces.


Spring 2020 Syllabus