SES 5368. Urban Infrastructure, Environment, and Sustainability

Urban infrastructures are socio-technical systems of facilities and services (i.e. energy, telecommunications, transportation, water, waste management, food distribution, housing) vital to the basic functioning of cities and regions. Beyond their physical designs, materials, and mechanics, urban infrastructures are fundamentally shaped by the investment and policy decisions of key actors and institutions, both public and private, embodying divergent priorities, normative assumptions, and power and resource differentials. In directly influencing the quality of the built environment, opportunity structures facing people and communities, and trajectories of territorial restructuring, they further carry implications for environmental sustainability and resilience, socio-spatial inclusion and equity, and urban futures more generally, so as to generate proponents both inside and outside of formal state structures and policy processes.

This seminar course introduces a critical approach to urban infrastructure with a focus on three domains—(1) transportation/urban mobility, (2) green buildings and neighborhoods, and (3) natural resource extraction and management. Course objectives are twofold, to: (1) clarify the historical, institutional, and socio-spatial factors shaping existing infrastructural dilemmas, including racial, classed, and gendered patterns of infrastructural provision and access, and (2) explore the role of politics and strategic actions involving actors and institutions across levels government as well as sectors, organizations, and groups beyond it in advancing and sustaining policy changes in urban infrastructure.

The course is in a seminar format, built around a speaker series and discussion sessions focusing on applied cases. Course evaluations will be based on two assignments (applied and research-oriented respectively) and class participation. It has no prerequisites and is open to graduate students across different disciplines.


Lily Song







Course ID: 


Subject Area: 

Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning
  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2019-2020 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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