MAS.552 City Science: Settlements Without (Guadalajara, Mexico), Spring Term 2020

City Science 

Kent Larson, Professor of the Practice
Luis Alberto Alonso Pastor, Research Scientist
Tuesdays 12:30 to 3:30pm
E15-341 unless otherwise noted
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Kent Larson
Luis Alonso

Guest critics:

Norman Foster 
The Norman Foster Foundation

Course description:

By 2050, 3.5 billion people may live in informal settlements without access to conventional infrastructure and buildings. Students will be on a mission to create new concepts for lightweight, distributed, and scalable systems that could be deployable within 10 to 20 years, including:

  • Power WITHOUT Grids. How might distributed energy production, from solar to community-scale fusion, provide power for homes, mobility, food production, and the local processing of water and waste?
  • Sanitation WITHOUT Sewers. How can human waste be processed and recycled at the scale of the toilet?
  • Water WITHOUT Pipes. How can water be collected, purified, and recycled at the scale of the household?
  • Housing WITHOUT Construction. How can shelter be grown or assembled without conventional materials and demolition?
  • Mobility WITHOUT Roads. How can ultralight autonomous devices (land & air) move people and goods?
  • Consumption WITHOUT Waste.  How can waste be minimized and repurposed to be useful for humans?  
  • Economies WITHOUT Currency.  How can local token economies promote entrepreneurship and build community wealth?

The workshop will focus on the informal settlement of Lomas del Centinela in Guadalajara, Mexico.  Subject to sufficient funding, students may elect to travel to Guadalajara for a spring break charrette with the University of Guadalajara and residents of the community. 


Settlements Without is open to dedicated students who commit to active attendance, the necessary independent research and personally doing something substantive to transform the world for the better. The class looks into a diverse group of people with a background in biomedical engineering, genetically modified organisms, new technologies, design, engineering, new materials, economics, architecture, and/or social issues.

Featured Speakers:

Guest speakers include researchers and entrepreneurs from academia and industry. Speakers will give one hour lecture every even week. They will present material intended to inform the development of student projects and to inspire new ideas.

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