Sustainable Communities and the Global Environment (Cross-listed with ARH 3500-102)

Discipline: Architecture
Instructor: Spain
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1550
End: 1705
Field Work: Day 1 - Wednesday, 25 March | South Africa Download Syllabus

Climate change, rising seawaters, and severe weather events are threatening coastal communities across the globe. Communities with the ability to cope with such extreme challenges are often referred to as “resilient”. The ways in which communities demonstrate resilience and the factors that determine the speed, shape and effectiveness of their responses, however, are varied—influenced by their distinctive social, institutional, environmental, and economic circumstances.


The course Sustainable Communities and the Global Environment is a three-credit course which will explore the impacts of climate change on the rapidly urbanizing cities of the global south, critically examine the idea of resilience, investigate risk factors in specific cities, and explore the various ways local governments and other stakeholders are working to manage climate change and enhance community resilience.


In our initial classroom work, students will read and debate important theoretical and analytical scholarship on resiliency, climate change, and rapid urbanization.  Students will use the field lab to undertake on-site data collection/analysis relative to the built and natural environment.  These data will serve as a foundation for a longitudinal research project on urban resiliency. For their final group project students will be asked to submit a written report in which they utilize their fieldwork data and formulate recommendations for policies or projects that might facilitate adaptation to climate change and enhance community resilience.

Field Work

Country: South Africa
Day: 1 - Wednesday, 25 March

The field lab will be conducted in Cape Town, where students will meet with local planning professionals, city leaders, and other experts to discuss issues associated with rapid urbanization and climate change. Students will be given an overview lecture and have the opportunity to tour the city with these professionals. Visits will be arranged to the areas most at risk for climate impacts; these might be low lying neighborhoods, specific fishing areas, the local port, or even the city’s core/downtown. Once the field visit is done, an informal sharing/presentation of city observation experiences will take place (almost immediately thereafter) on the dates listed on the syllabus. The expectation is that students will present photos, general impressions, and learning “take aways” that reflect the main topics of the course. A 5-6 page written summary of your presentation, due April 12, will be the basis for your Field Lab grade. Academic Objectives:

  1. Understand the range of tools currently being implemented to manage climate change adaptation in urban areas.
  2. Understand the role of public policy and urban planning processes in managing urban environments
  3. Gain an appreciation for the rapid transitions occurring in cities of the Global South