Topics: Sustainable Design
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Level: Undergraduate, Graduate
Division: Parsons The New School for Design
School: School of Constructed Environments
Department: Constructed Environments
Course Number: PSCE 5033
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Architecture
  • Environmental Design
  • Sustainability
Sustainability is a term used by scientists and practitioners holding widely differing perspectives, from biology to political science, from economics to environmental history and international relations. This seminar will explore how we might construct a conceptual framework for understanding the complex questions that “sustainability” raises for the design professions, and for the study of Design History and Theory today. If “sustainability” is seen as a limit identified with protecting nature, with the goals of preservation and minimal intervention, does it stand in opposition to architecture as an instrument of development? How can the values of environmentalism and “sustainability” be integrated into the ways in which designers think? We will investigate these questions through an emphasis on the built environment, understood as part of a larger social, cultural and intellectual territory. We will look at how designers and critics have responded to the concept of “sustainability,” from the last decades of the 19th century, up to today. Our approach will be to weave together writings about nature and the environment (GeorgeMarsh, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson), with key moments of environmental policy and activism (such as the first Earth Day, the Brundtland Report), and design research (from early 20th century Garden Cities, to Masdar and BedZED).
Course Open to: Degree Students
Course Pre/Co-requisites:
Open to: All university graduate degree students; upper-level undergraduate students with permission.


Open to Lang/Parsons BA/BFA students.

Open to Parsons School of Design students.


Open to Graduate students.