The Global Urban Humanities Initiative is a joint venture between the UC Berkeley Arts & Humanities Division of the College of Letters & Science and the College of Environmental Design. It brings together scholars and practitioners from the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, city and regional planning, and multiple humanities disciplines - ranging from East Asian languages & culture, comparative literature, and history of art to theater, dance and performance studies. Together, faculty and graduate students are developing new theoretical paradigms, research methods, and pedagogical approaches in order to help address the complex problems facing today's global cities and regions.
Thanks to the vision and support of the Mellon Foundation, the Initiative creates an opportunity to bring the humanities, which are increasingly aware that people shape the world around them and are in turn shaped by that world, into closer connection with disciplines that regard the built environment as a three-dimensional field. Similarly, the grant creates an opportunity for environmental design scholars to renew their focus on the individuals who experience the built environment, modify and reshape it, embrace it or rebel against it. Such an effort was championed at UC Berkeley in the 1960's and 70's and gave rise to an important field of theory and research known as "social factors in design." With the emergence of vast global cities and metropolitan regions, this collaborative initiative offers new opportunities for discovery and aims to help address some of the most complex global isssues.
The program consists of a series of cross-disciplinary theory seminars, collaborative methods workshops designed to prepare students for different modes of social and spatial analysis, and urban research studios. These elements of the project are complemented by joint symposia involving the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative.
Global cities provide an expansive territory for intellectual inquiry and opportunity for positive change. People living in these rapidly expanding metropolitan regions are vulnerable to war and social strife, to climate change and ecological degradation, and to loss of livelihoods in a swiftly shifting global economy; but these places are at the same time sites of aesthetic purpose, creativity, and innovation. With a focus on global cities, the Global Urban Humanities Initiative will enable students and faculty from both colleges to develop more robust and diverse models of learning, scholarship and public engagement.