Cities are systems, systems within systems. Government, infrastructure, food, healthcare, education, taxes, ecosystems – these are just a few examples. We live in a time characterized by dysfunction and lack of investment (#neglect) in many of these systems. Some of these are spectacular – the levees failing in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina – while others are mundane – a crack in the sidewalk.

Understanding the systems operating within cities lets us understand functioning cities and how to accomplish tasks (change, built work, permit approval) within them far better. In this project the systems of the city become more visible to us through the places where they break down.

What design opportunities are created by dysfunctional urban systems?

Project site: The city of Syracuse. Some systems may include areas beyond the city or even its suburbs (eg: watersheds).
What to do:

  • Brainstorm as a class the systems of the city – social, economic, ecological, physical (infrastructure) – natural or constructed. Which of these are functioning and which are not?
  • Choose a system or related group of systems to investigate from the list.
  • Educate yourself about your chosen system in Syracuse: how it functions, what’s involved in it, why it matters to a functioning city. How is it supposed to work? How do you know it’s working well or measure success (#data)?
  • Identify failure within the system. What does failure look like? How do you know it’s occurred (the opposite of measuring success; #data)? What are examples? Real-life case studies or profiles of failures? These could include maps of local failures or depictions of examples from other places.
  • Add space into the process: where are these failures located? How do they relate spatially to the rest of the system? What do you learn about the system and its failures by looking at it spatially?
  • Learn/hypothesize about causes of dysfunction in the system. Failing urban systems typically have multiple causes, which makes them complicated to fix (#wickedproblem). One way to think about causes is as pre-existing conditions, which set the scene (#neglect), and as “last straw” events, which provide the last step needed for failure to appear.
  • What other site analysis information is missing from your dossier? Track it down and find it.

Project schedule:
M 2.01             Project brief posted via @susandieterlen and on City Wild (blog)
Tu 2.02            Guest lecture by Syracuse I-Team’s Andy Maxwell and Sam Edelstein (CoE 508); go over project brief; begin Part I
Tu 2.09            Flint water crisis panel (Room 203, Syracuse Center of Excellence; noon-1:00)
Th 2.11            Part I finished; in-class presentation, posts to social media, tagged with @samedelstein and @Andrew_Maxwell, #iteams (+other hashtags at your discretion) Part II begins (see separate project brief)
Th 2.25            Poster Session with Syracuse I-Team (location TBA)
M 2.29            5:00 p.m.: Parts I and II due in pdf to class Google drive folder.
Tu 3.01            Post final boards to social media, tagged with @samedelstein and @Andrew_Maxwell, #iteams

1 – 24”x36” board (digital) OR equivalent in Prezi including:

  • Explanation and illustration of your chosen system
  • Infographics (Venn diagrams, timelines, flow charts…) as appropriate
  • Map of Syracuse and/or parts of the city as appropriate

Evaluation Criteria:

  • Product clearly communicates chosen system, and locates it in space within Syracuse.
  • System’s function or lack thereof is evaluated, with support for evaluation of success or failure.
  • Product identifies at least 3 specific failures in the system, and locates them in space.
  • Causes of system dysfunction are provided (OK if speculative, but provide evidence).
  • Product enables a classmate to start on Part II (identifying opportunities and sites)
  • Deliverables communicate well and at an appropriate level of detail (including how design resists and incorporates entropic process).
  • Deliverables demonstrate good graphic representation and craft.

Copyright © 2016  Susan Dieterlen