Fall 2023
SCI 6244
September 5 - December 6
Monday, 9:00 AM - 11:45 AM
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Climate by Design


The climate crisis is here now and for the foreseeable future. For designers who shape the built environment, there is an urgent need to respond to the changing climate with greater understanding, sophistication, and imagination. To do so requires a community of learning committed to deeper analysis of the patterns of change and the potential roles designers may play in reducing carbon emissions and adapting to the many changes the future will bring. We must ask critical questions and interrogate existing systems of knowledge. What is climate change? How can designers approach it? What are the design strategies? How effective are they? Whom do they serve? And on what terms?The effects and burdens of climatic change are unequal, contributing to increased social and economic disparity and often exacerbating historic patterns of inequity. The impacts are multiple and diverse as are the many cultures and communities that must respond and adapt. Therefore, a universal, one size fits all approach is not an adequate response. To develop design tools that respond to these conditions, we need to understand not only the science, but also the political, social, economic, and cultural contexts on the ground, where design projects and movements are rooted.Through a series of lectures and case studies, this course will explore the range of paradigmatic design responses to the climate crisis. This foundation will be built through a series of talks by GSD faculty and external experts across a variety of fields. Lectures and panel discussions will cover both the science of and design response to the climate crisis including adaptation, mitigation, climate justice and activism. We will engage in discussion together and with these invited experts to advance our knowledge and interrogate existing practices. Students will develop and analyze a case study, advancing methodologies for critical assessment and visual representation. The studies will consider social, cultural, and aesthetic dimensions as well as environmental function, economic deployment, and political engagement. These exemplary cases will be a means to understand and articulate the evolving role of landscape architecture and related disciplines in designing for an increasingly vulnerable planet. As such, the course will explore not only how landscape architects respond to the climate crisis, but what these actions say about the nature of design itself. The cases will be situated in different geographical and climatic contexts and the responses will be understood in relation to advances in science as well as the variations in political, environmental, economic, social, and historical context.Climate by Design is a required course for MLA degree candidates and open to other GSD and Harvard students with an interest in the climate crisis and design.

Landscape Architecture
Harvard Graduate School of Design
Course Level
Interest Area
Design & Architecture
Cross Registration