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The Agile City

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Aerial view of New York City.

SINY 122: The Agile City

While a unique confluence of forces—largely economic, cultural and environmental—is transforming urban places globally, these forces are having extraordinarily transformative effects on New York City. As a result, the form of the city is changing as convulsively as it did in the formative decades of the late 19th and early 20th century. At such a historic tipping point, The Agile City is intended to help participants think about city form and the forces that create it as integral to the larger questions and issues society faces.

The course will ground itself in the physical city: at the intersection of architecture and planning (culture, identity and innovation in built form), social impact (how to grow broad well-being) and environmental sustainability (conserving nonrenewable resources and improving the health of ecosystems that support us). Students in the course will learn to “read” the physical city as a record of the forces that act on it and as an expression of transformative vitality. The class will draw from case studies in New York and elsewhere, using guest experts and site visits or walking tours.

Meet the Instructor(s)

James Russell

James Russell, Stanford in New York

James S. Russell, FAIA, is the Director, Design Strategic Initiatives at the New York City Department of Design and Construction, where his current work engages sustainability, resilience, equity and healthy living.  He has written for numerous publications as an architecture critic and journalist, including The Economist, Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He was the architecture critic at Bloomberg News and a long-time editor at Architectural Record magazine. He blogs at His book, The Agile City: Building Well Being and Wealth in an Era of Climate Change, was published by Island Press.