• Design and Urban Ecologies (MS), Theories of Urban Practice (MA)

    William Morrish

    William Morrish wants his students to build a better city of the future. But in order to do so, they need to closely examine every interior and exterior component of the urban landscape. “We’ve been looking at the city from the outside; now it’s time to look at it from the inside,” says Morrish, a professor of urban ecology. What does that mean, exactly? “It begins with the notion that this discipline doesn’t have exclusionary boundaries,” he explains. “You need to understand that whatever you design has a relationship to multiple issues.” Those issues include not just the material and construction of the object but also how it’s used in the daily activities of consuming, working, and living—what Morrish calls “basic economic and ecological transactions.”

    So how do you teach this? As an example, Morrish refers to a class taught by Alfred Zollinger in which interior design students are asked to find a discarded chair, reclaim it, examine it, and imagine the chair’s original environment and use. The final step is to create a series of rooms inspired by the chair. “By slowly working your way backward like this, you learn that what you make is part of a chain in the supply system,” says Morrish. “You start focusing on where the object belongs, rather than just saying, 'Let’s design a room and put some furniture in it!'” He adds, “To study how we live and work is a basis for understanding how we’re going to make our environment more sustainable. It’s really critical. You can’t design a new city without it.”