Committee on Environment, Geography and Urbanization

Division of Social Sciences, The University of Chicago

Winter 2023

Other Quarters: Spring 2023

Courses marked (C) can be taken as an ENST Capstone.

Sustainable Urban Development

Mo/We, 3:30–4:50pm
ENST 20150, GLST 20150, ARCH 20150, PBPL 20150


The course covers concepts and methods of sustainable urbanism, livable cities, resiliency, and smart growth principles from a social, environmental and economic perspective.

In this course we examine how the development in and of cities – in the US and around the world – can be sustainable, especially given predictions of a future characterized by increasing environmental and social volatility. We begin by critiquing definitions of sustainability. The fundamental orientation of the course will be understanding cities as complex socio-natural systems, and so we will look at approaches to sustainability grouped around several of the most important component systems: climate, energy, transportation, and water. With the understanding that sustainability has no meaning if it excludes human life, perspectives from both the social sciences and humanities are woven throughout: stewardship and environmental ethics are as important as technological solutions and policy measures.

Making the Natural World: Foundations of Human Ecology

ENST 21301, ANTH 21303


What’s natural about nature? Humans have “made” the natural world both materially, through millennia of direct action in and on the landscape, and conceptually, through the creation of various ideas about nature, ecosystem, organism, and ecology. In this course we will consider how the conceptual underpinnings of contemporary Western notions of nature, environment, balance, power and race are intertwined. We will trace this trajectory using the lens of the historical development of the field of ecology, then broaden our view to consider worldviews and ontologies about the environment from non-Western cultures. How then do these worldviews influence attitudes and policies towards land, environment, and its stewardship? Taking examples from current environmental topics (e.g., land rights, environmental justice, park access, conservation, extinction) we will evaluate the extent and character of human entanglement with the environment. Throughout the course student voices will be prominent in the many discussion-based class sessions.

Changing America in the Last 100 Years (C)

Michael Conzen

Tu/Th, 9:30–10:50am
ENST 22101, HIST 37506, GEOG 32101, HIST 27506, ARCH 27506


This course examines the economic and social forces that have transformed the critical character and performance of the major regions of the United States since the 1920s, and how the interactions between regions has profoundly shifted. The course completes the historical sweep of American geographical development following on from the Autumn course, Historical Geography of the United States, but can be taken as an independent course. Emphasized are the ways in which socio-cultural, technological and economic changes have played out differently across continental space and produced variable environmental consequences. An all-day field trip in the Chicago region visits sites that reflect some of the larger forces at work at the intra-regional scale.

This course can be taken as an ENST Capstone.

Undergraduate Research Seminar: Chicago Urban Morphology (C)

Michael Conzen

Tu, 2:00–4:50pm
ENST 25012, GEOG 25012, ARCH 25012, PBPL 25012, CHST 25012, SOCI 20552


This seminar is open to third and fourth years, particularly for but not necessarily limited to those in the fields of geography, environmental science, and urban studies. It is designed for students to undertake original research on a topic of their own choosing within the broad scope of Chicago’s built environment. Following a brief reading course in the theoretical literature of urban morphology, each student will identify and select a topic of interest to research using Chicago sources, with the objective of a formal written research paper. Discussions will center around formulating research questions, theoretical underpinnings, suitable methodology, modes of writing, appropriate presentation of evidence, and effective illustration. Sessions will combine open discussion with a rotating series of periodic individual progress reports to the group, reflecting an interesting diversity of topics and mutual support in gaining experience in the research process.

This course can be taken as an ENST Capstone.

Cities in Protest (C)

Geoffrey Goldberg

Mo, 3:00–4:00pm (classroom) / Fr, 3:00–5:00pm (studio)
ENST 25401


Long considered as condensers of social interaction, cities are here examined as to their response under significant public protest. Such events are understood as “stress-tests” to conventional urban theory as they alter, if only temporarily, previously understood conventional relationships of public and private domains. The project then is to document, assess, and understand those changes. Initial work focuses on documentation of protests using architecturally-based techniques, to provide clearer understanding and materials for comparison and discussion. Attention is on the year of 1968, a time when many cities were taken over by conflagrations. Drawings and digital models are to be prepared from detailed review of photographs, news reports and histories to document the events. A second area of investigation involves representation and how differing techniques of graphic projection impacts our understandings. A range of representational strategies are to be compared and assessed as to how they respond to the changes in urban spatialities engendered by protests. Work then concludes with individual investigations of more contemporary protests, identified and discussed together.

This course can be taken as an ENST Capstone.

The Life of Buildings (C)

Chana Haouzi

Tu, 3:30–4:50pm
ENST 24199/1, ARCH 24199/1, ARTH 24199/1, CHST 24199/1


This course will examine the life of buildings—how they perform, evolve, and adapt over time. How do particular design decisions influence human experience and behavior? Which parts of the building align with its intended use and what are surprising outcomes or changes? These questions aim to provide students with a deeper understanding of the built environment and the series of decisions that shaped them. Through readings, surveys, site visits, and conversations with architects and building users, we will measure and examine the spaces around us. Students will begin with a series of short analysis and design exercises and create short films, projective collages and diagrams, and architectural concept models. Building on our collective observations, research, and analysis, we will then finish with a final project where we respond to an existing building and propose an alternate life path. The format of the course is part-seminar, part-studio that aims to equip students with practical tools and strategies needed to shape our world and account for the long-term impact of design.

This course can be taken as an ENST Capstone.

Environmental Justice in Principle and Practice

Raymond Lodato

Tu/Th, 2:00–3:20pm
ENST 26260, PBPL 26260

This course will investigate the foundational texts on environmental justice as well as case studies, both in and out of Chicago. Students will consider issues across a wide spectrum of concerns, including toxics, lead in water, waste management, and access to greenspaces, particularly in urban areas. These topics will be taught in accompaniment with a broader understanding of how social change occurs, what barriers exist to producing just outcomes, and what practices have worked to overcome obstacles in the past. The class will welcome speakers from a variety of backgrounds to address their work on these topics, and the class will design a research project that will be executed in Spring on a topic related to environmental justice in Chicago.

U.S. Environmental Policy (C)

Raymond Lodato

Tu/Th, 9:30–10:50am
ENST 24701, PBPL 24701, LLSO 24901

How environmental issues and challenges in the United States are addressed is subject to abrupt changes and reversals caused by extreme partisanship and the heightened significance of the issues for the health of the planet and all its inhabitants. The relatively brief history of this policy area, and the separate and distinct tracts in which public lands and pollution control issues are adjudicated, makes for a diverse and complex process by which humanity’s impact on the natural world is managed and contained. This course focuses on how both types of environmental issues are addressed in each branch of the Federal government, the states and localities, as well as theories of how environmental issues arrived onto the public agenda and why attention to them is cyclical. Students are encouraged to understand the life cycle of public policy from its initial arrival on the public agenda to the passage of legislation to address adverse conditions, as well as how changes in the policy occur after the inevitable decline of intensive attention.

This course can be taken as an ENST Capstone.

Climate Change and Society: Human Impacts, Adaptation, and Policy Solutions

Amir Jina

Tu/Th, 3:30–4:50pm
ENST 28728


Time is running out to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. The next decade will be critical both for the transformation of society and learning to adapt to changes that cannot be avoided, and climate change will be a key part of everyday life. This class discusses how we face this global challenge. During the course, our focus will be on the impacts of climate change upon society, and the necessity of solutions that deal with the global scope, local scales, and often unequal nature of the impacts. This interdisciplinary course covers the tools and insights from economic analysis, environmental science, and statistics that inform our understanding of climate change impacts, the design of mitigation and adaptation policies, and the implementation of these policies. Students will develop a mastery of key conceptual ideas from multiple disciplines relevant for climate change and acquire tools for conducting analyses of climate impacts and policies. The latter parts of the course will hone students’ ability to apply and communicate these insights through practical analysis of national policies and writing op-eds about climate-related issues. The goal is to help students from any background become informed and critically-minded practitioners of climate-informed policy making, able to communicate the urgency to any audience.

Researching Chicago’s Historic Parks and Neighborhoods

Julia Bachrach

Fr, 9:30am–12:30pm
ENST 20336, CHST 20336

Often considered a “City of Neighborhoods,” Chicago has a fascinating network of community areas that were shaped by historical events and developments. Many of the city’s neighborhoods include parks that have their own significant architectural, landscape and social histories. The class will introduce students to some of Chicago’s most interesting historic neighborhoods and parks; expose them to key regional digital and on-site archives; and instruct them in appropriate methodologies for conducting deep research on sites and landscapes, with a special focus on Chicago’s historic park system. Students will utilize an array of resources including Sanborn maps, US Census records, historic plans, photographs, and archival newspapers to provide in-depth studies of unpreserved sites. The course will also expose students to historic preservation policies, methodologies, and guidelines to provide practical strategies for preserving lesser-known places and sites. As a Chicago Studies class, its pedagogy will also include excursions into the city, engagement with local guest speakers, and research in relevant Chicago-area archives/special collections.

Cities, Space, Power: Introduction to Urban Social Science

Neil Brenner

ENST 20506, SOCI 20506, CHSS 30506, HIPS 20506, CHST 20506, ARCH 20506, PLSC 30506, SOCI 30506, CCCT 30506, PLSC 20506

This lecture course provides a broad, multidisciplinary introduction to the study of urbanization in the social sciences. The course surveys a broad range of research traditions from across the social sciences, as well as the work of urban planners, architects, and environmental scientists. Topics include: theoretical conceptualizations of the city and urbanization; methods of urban studies; the politics of urban knowledges; the historical geographies of capitalist urbanization; political strategies to shape and reshape the built and unbuilt environment; cities and planetary ecological transformation; post-1970s patterns and pathways of urban restructuring; and struggles for the right to the city.

Cities by Design*

Evan Carver

ENST 26005


This course examines the theory and practice of city design—how, throughout history, people have sought to mold and shape cities in pre-determined ways. The form of the city is the result of myriad factors, but in this course we will home in on the purposeful act of designing cities according to normative thinking—ideas about how cities ought to be. Using examples from all time periods and places around the globe, we will examine how cities are purposefully designed and what impact those designs have had. Where and when has city design been successful, and where has it resulted in more harm than good?

*This course will be taught at the University of Chicago Center in Paris

BA Colloquium II

We, 11:30am–2:20pm
ENST 29802

This colloquium assists students in conceptualizing, researching, and writing their BA theses.