Bodies and Buildings
Fall 2014 Syllabus
Instructor: Jen van der Meer
jd1159 at nyu dot edu
Mondays 6:30 – 9:25 PM 721 Broadway at Waverly
Why is it so hard to care for our planet and ourselves? We seem hungover from a century of prosperity and ingenuity, unable to invent economic models that create jobs, improve health, and restore the earth. Eager ITP students are better equipped than MBAs to envision and hack our way out of this trap, but often lack an understanding of the mega forces of business, regulation, and bad cultural habits that keep us from saving ourselves. But don’t despair! We’ll get busy, and make things again – but also provide you with conceptual scaffolding upon which to build your world changing ideas.
Our tools of understanding include deep design thinking, and systems thinking. By focusing on two systems in particular: human bodies, and the buildings that humans make, we will examine the environmental and social impacts of the economic systems. Bodies are in trouble right now – despite reaching the peak of productivity the US now leads the world in the rampant growth of chronic diseases that lower life expectancy, and reduced life quality. Buildings are not in enough trouble – they account for the largest source of both electricity consumption (68% of global use) and greenhouse gas emissions (48% of global emissions) in the world.
In this course we will discover what Dana Meadows calls “leverage points” as places to intervene that would transform the system as a whole.
This is a lecture course, and the syllabus is built to provide students with a systems thinking approach to problem solving. The objective for the final presentations is for students to generate a concept that can be applied to improve human health, building health, or both. The goal is for students to articulate a solution, and argue persuasively for ideas to become reality (vs. moving straight to working prototype in usual ITP fashion). Assignments will involve in person class presentation, and class participation is required. The course is structured to provide iterative opportunities to build and strengthen ideas – rooted in user-centered design, grounded in the realities of sustainable cost models and growth plans, validated by lean and iterative solution development, and strengthened by students’ ability to stand up and tell their stories.