*Freshman Seminar 70P. The City of Tomorrow: Constructing and Inhabiting the 21st Century

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.” ~ Winston Churchill

The built environment has profound effects on both our daily lives and the human condition at large. It determines where and how we live, work, play, and dream. The built environment embodies concrete stances on a wide variety of material, spatial, and cultural issues within a society. The quality and availability of affordable housing, for instance, is not merely an economic concern, but also a value judgment about the obligations of a society to its citizens. Underlying the practical aspects of the built environment—can this be built?—are cultural and societal considerations. By examining these issues on a variety of scales, ranging from the single-family home to the megacity, this seminar investigates how the built environment is the fingerprint of societal values and how it can be a vehicle for both positive and negative change.
This seminar weaves together the practical aspects and social factors that make up the built environment. Each week, students will take on the role of decision-makers and engage with a wide variety of ethical, aesthetic, political, environmental, and social considerations. We will discuss how issues such as climate change, rapid urbanization, resource scarcity, economic inequality, and geopolitical conflicts, affect us as both inhabitants and constructors of the built environment. At the end of the seminar, students will bring together both ideological and practical considerations to design a new city from scratch à la Sim City.​

Notes: As part of this dual process of investigation and application, students will have the opportunity to meet with architects, urban planners, and developers, while also taking excursions into Cambridge and Boston. Only open to Freshman students.


Arthur Segel





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Freshman Seminars
  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2018-2019 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
  • An asterisk (*) before a course number indicates that a student must obtain the instructor's permission in order to enroll in the course.

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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