Fall 2023
September 5 - December 31
Thursday, 3:00pm - 5:30pm
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Back to the Future: The Cities of Tomorrow Throughout History


What will the cities of tomorrow be like? How did people in the past imagine our cities would be like? Our ability to foretell the future has a mixed record at best. Urban transformations often elude expectations, and the history of cities shows that the unforeseen happens frequently. And yet, predictions and expectations can teach us a lot about how people make sense of the world. Since the 1800s we have seen a boom in urbanization, as well as in utopian and dystopian imaginations. In fact, we can think of modernity in terms of competing visions for the future. Throughout the 20th century, for example, many envisioned flying vehicles. Some vied for segregated cities, others for diverse communities. The expectation that the future will be radically different from the past emerged as a defining urban trait.  Today, as climate change sets in, it might seem as if the future, not the past, is already fixed. Catastrophic visions abound. But is a dire destiny inevitable? Can cities be our best hope to reduce emissions and ecological footprints? In this course we will explore multiple takes on the future, including in urban planning, design, literature and film. We will ask questions like: How do expectations about the future shape the present? How did unrealized projects impact urban developments? Can fiction and the Arts stretch the limits of the thinkable? How might futures imagined in the past help to address our urban and environmental challenges? Course open to First-Year Students Only

First Year Seminar Program
Faculty of Arts & Sciences
Course Level
Interest Area
Arts & Humanities
Physical Sciences
Cross Registration
Not Available