Course Syllabus

“Playing with Anomalies. Co-Producing New Imaginaries: Bogotá River”


Urban Planning Graduate Seminar, 3 Credits                        

Instructors: Marcela Tovar-Restrepo (UP), Giancarlo Mazzanti (Arch.), Carlos Medellín (Arch)

Thursdays: 2:00-4:00 pm

Room: 201 Fayerweather

Course Description

This is a joint seminar between the Urban Planning and the Architecture programs. It seeks to identify existing synergies and complementary methodological approaches between these disciplines in an applied problem-solving scenario. Through an interactive exchange between planning and architecture’s students, this class aims to provide methodological tools to inform urban design and city planning processes using the case-study of Bogotá river (Bogotá’s river-Colombia). This class will explore planning and research methodologies including: ethnographic techniques, asset based-methodology and participatory games/toys, in addition to cognitive mapping and learning alliances. These will allow us to understand different forms of knowledge, identities and social practices involved in place-making processes around the Bogotá river enabling a more ludic and diverse participation in urban interventions.


The seminar final results aim to provide a useful understanding of planning and architecture challenges, as well as feasible recommendations as to how intervene on the territory in a more comprehensive and holistic way. Moreover, it will reflect planning perspectives in regards to the use of information, diverse actors relations, overall approach to problem-solving, and issues of civic responsibility and social justice. The final presentation and report should convey the basis for planning and urban interventions’ recommendations and be easily understood by a lay audience.

This seminar will include a four-days field trip to Bogotá-Colombia and will complement the Architecture Advanced Studio: “Playing with Anomalies. Co-Producing New Imaginaries: Bogotá River” taught by Giancarlo Mazzanti and Carlos Medellín. Students are welcome to join all the activities taking place in both the Seminar and the Studio. Our academic partners in Colombia will be Universidad de Los Andes (Architecture Faculty), whose students will join us to share their work and local experience both in Bogotá and N.Y.


The intent of the seminar is to enable students to learn how to:

  • Identify key synergies between planning methodologies and architecture design in urban interventions;
  • Perform effectively and collaboratively in interdisciplinary and international working groups;
  • Apply practical planning skills and knowledge learned elsewhere in the planning curriculum;
  • Develop further knowledge and problem-solving skills as required by the challenges faced in a convoluted and complex city like Bogotá;
  • Develop written and oral communication skills for addressing diverse stake-holders as well as planning and urban intervention challenges;
  • Identify planning approaches and methodologies assessing their relative pertinence and effectiveness in the construction of spatial and environmental justice in the context of the Bogotá river;
  • Strategize to improve current architecture, planning and policy approaches in the cases studied.



Marcela Tovar-Restrepo, PhD, is lecturer at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University. She obtained her PhD in Anthropology at the New School for Social Research (N.Y.) and her Master on Urban Development Planning at University College of London. She conducts research on diversity, gender and development in Latin America. In the U.S.A. she has served as Director (a) of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at Queens College–CUNY (2008-2011) and taught at Lang College–New School (Urban Studies Program). In Latin America, she has taught and worked as policy-maker in Colombia and Chile for more than ten years. Besides teaching, Dr. Tovar-Restrepo has served as international consultant mainstreaming cultural and gender rights into policy-making processes at different UN instances like the Commission of Sustainable Development (CSD) - DESA, UNDEF, IPU and the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues. She has also served as technical advisor and researcher for International cooperation agencies (GTZ, AECID), governments, social movements and NGOs in areas such as gender and ethnic diversity, environment and human rights and conflict.

 Giancarlo Mazzanti is an architect graduated from the Javeriana University, Bogotá - Colombia (1987) with a postgraduate degree in Architecture History and theory, and Industrial Design from the University of Florence. Italy (1991). He has been the distinguished winner of the XX Colombian Architecture Biennial in the category of public space in 2006, the Ibero-American Biennial in the category of Best Architectonic Work in 2008 (Lisbon, Portugal). Winner of the Panamerican Architecture Biennial in the category of Architectonic Design in 2008 (Quito, Ecuador), the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture (Paris, France ) in 2010. His work is in the permanent collection of the MoMA (New York), Museum Georges Pompidou (Paris) and CMOA (Pittsburgh).

 Carlos Medellín is an architect, designer, and researcher based in Bogotá, Colombia. His practice is informed by theory and methods from place-making, participatory design, anthropology, urban and architecture theory studies. He conducts design projects and research based on concepts coming from collective and/or personal experiences between the built context and the community affected. These projects are usually produced with other architects, designers, educators, artists and social researchers. His work has been developed in Chicago, New York, Mexico City, Tokyo, Moscow, Bogotá, Cartagena, Medellin, and Barranquilla. Carlos has a special focus on understanding the contact points between the urban and architecture landscape and the human networks of relationships built within the cityscape to use them as a design processes.


By appointment


The course will follow a problem-solving seminar format, focused on the Bogotá river case-study. The seminar will be divided in two sections:

 Section 1: Lecture – Discussion (First hour of class). Instructors will introduce the topics of the week and moderate a class discussion where all are expected to have read the assigned readings and participate. Lectures, guest speakers, and documentaries will occasionally complement the basic pedagogical format of the seminar.

 Section 2: Interdisciplinary Group-work (Second hour of class). Mixed teams of planners and architects will work hands-on applying the conceptual contents previously discussed by identifying how they translate into material and concrete urban interventions in the context of our case-study.    

 Visual Tools

Students are strongly advised to strive for ways of appreciating the physical characteristics of the places mentioned in the readings and class discussions and explicitly engage the socio-spatial dimension of such places in their essays and discussions. The internet offers a variety of tools to visualize place: Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Images, their equivalent in Yahoo and other browsers, YouTube, Flickr, etc. To expand the visual and other sensorial appreciation of international places, readings in this course are also complemented in class as appropriate with pertinent films and documentaries.


Individual Memos                                 20 pts.

In class group work                             30 pts.

Midterm Presentation                         15 pts.

Final Presentation & Report               25 pts.

Participation and attendance               10 pts.

TOTAL                                               100 pts.



  1. Inter-disciplinary Groups - Presentations:

Student’s teams will be responsible for doing two presentations: 1) Midterm presentation and a 2) Final presentation. These presentations shall focus on the planning and architecture challenges in the Bogotá river, the information analysis, planning methodologies and urban interventions proposals developed by the different groups.


  1. Individual Take-Away Memos (two pages - single space)

UP Students are require to deliver a two page “Take-Away Memo” after each session. Based on the contents discussed in class, the memo shall address the following questions:

1) Identify existing synergies between planning and architecture. This is: in what way both planning and architecture scopes can interact or inform each other when taking into account a specific urban problem or planning methodology in the context of the Bogotá river?

2) State brief planning recommendations/actions. This is: as a planner facing a particular situation or problem (the one studied in class), what actions shall be taken and how those actions can impact the architecture intervention in the context of the Bogotá river?

 Memos shall be handed-in in the following week. Memos can include graphics and images in the third or fourth pages in case students would like to add them.

 Interdisciplinary Groups - Final Report:

This report will build on the final presentation students have prepared in their groups. It will include their bibliography and fieldwork information in case students think it will be illustrative and support their arguments and proposals.

 Participation and Attendance

We conceive of our role as instructors of the course as one of a facilitator, i.e., we will strive to optimize and monitor the conditions for learning to occur during the semester. Learning, however, is co-produced and hence a shared responsibility of all course participants. Participation in this context is indispensable. Students are expected to come to class prepared, having read and reflected on the readings of the week, and ready and willing to make substantive contributions in class. Attendance is mandatory and can only be excused by medical or familial emergency with written notification. Attendance failure results in loss of participatory opportunities and therefore the loss of participation grade. When possible, announce your absence prior to class.


 Critical film/documentary watching and discussing are productive ways of learning about urban and cultural conditions in a different context as they allow sensorial-intensive experiences of immersion. Students are expected to watch at least 1 film/documentary. Selection:


  1. La Primera Noche (2003): culture, paramilitaries, rural to urban migration
  2. Los Colores de la Montaña (2011): rural life, violence
  3. Maria, Full of Grace (2004): drugs, poverty, migration
  4. Rosario Tijeras (2005): thriller, class, violence
  5. Choco (2012): Afro-Colombian, rural, violence
  6. La Vendedora de Rosas (1998): violence, poverty, children
  7. Perder es Cuestión de Metodo (2005): Thriller, violence, corruption
  8. La Sirga (2012): rural, violence, cinematography
  9. Plan Colombia: Cashing in on the Drug War Failure (2003): documentary, drug, history, politics
  10. Confesión a Laura (1991): historical, romance



 Most of our required bibliography will be posted in CW. Information regarding Bogotá/ Bogotá river will be posted in a Google Drive. Students are responsible for finding the texts that are NOT posted on CW.




1    Introduction (9/7)

Description of course content, structure and methodology. We will start addressing our Case-Study: “Bogotá river” exploring the existing relations between planning methodologies, architecture interventions and the politics of space.

 Required Bibliography:

  • Colombian Constitution – 1991.

The selected titles and articles will provide students with a general idea about Colombia and the main of the constitutional rights (environmental, social and economic) that of its citizens as well as the structure and the territorial and administrative Ordinance of the Colombian State and its planning institutions (Find the Colombian Constitution on-line)

  • Selected Titles & Articles: Title I Fundamental Principles; Title II: Articles 16 (on individual autonomy and sexual orientation); Articles 18,19,20 (freedom of conscience and religion); Article 25 (on right to work); Chapter II: Social, Economic and Cultural Rights; Chapter III (on collective and environmental rights); Articles 339-344 (on planning system and processes).


2    Río Bogotá Territoriality: Multiple Actors in Place-making (9/14)

This session will introduce main planning tools and regulations that will inform our working context at national and city level, and will make a first territorial characterization of Bogotá river. Students will be introduced to the compiled information about our site (GIS) shared in:


Required Bibliography:

  • Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial – Bogota (on-line)
  • Proyecto de Plan de Desarrollo para Bogota 2016-2020 (Just articles related to our study) (On-line)


Suggested Bibliography:

  • Lincoln Land Institute-Planes parciales, gestión asociada y mecanismos de distribución equitativa de cargas y beneficios en el sistema urbanístico colombiano 
  •  IDB-Las Ciudades del Mañana: Gestión del Suelo Urbano en Colombia 

 3    Planning and Research Techniques (9/21)

This class will introduce planning and research techniques that will allow us to understand the different spatial organizations, anomalies, heterotopias and ways in which space is created and transformed by its inhabitants around Bogotá river. Ethnographic techniques and participatory games/toys will be included as tools to be used during our fieldtrip to observe and collect valuable information about our site.

Required Bibliography:

  • Brown, T. and J. Wyatt (2010). Design Thinking for Social Innovation, Development Outreach, 12 (1), pp. 29-43 (Posted CW)


  • Handwerker, W. (2001) Quick Ethnography. USA: Altamira Press (sections TBA)


  • Dana H. Taplin, Suzanne Scheld, and Setha M. Low, (2002). Rapid Ethnographic Assessment in Urban Parks: A Case Study of Independence National Historical Park Human Organization, Society for Applied Anthropology Vol. 61, No. 1, 2002 (Posted CW)

Suggested Bibliography:


  • The Urban Ethnography Reader (2014) Ed. Duneider, M., Kasinitz, P. and Murphy A. Oxford: Oxford Press (Parts II, VII,VIII)


  • Ethnography and the City. Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork (2013). Ed. Richard E. Ocejo. London: Routledge (Part I Sec. I; Part II)


4    Fieldtrip to Bogotá (9/28)


5    Fieldtrip – Debriefing (10/5)


6    Applied Participatory Planning Methodologies (10/12)

We will examine selected participatory planning methodologies applied to our case-study using illustrative examples. Based on the collected information during the fieldwork, we will discuss: How can participatory planning methodologies transform living spaces? How can urban interventions trigger new social behaviors and values among communities? And how can they lead inhabitants to imagine and create new forms of spatiality and social relations in the context of our case-study?


Required Bibliography

  • SWITCH, (2010) Bringing Together Diverse Groups to Clean Up the Bogota River- The case of micro-tanneries in Villapinzón Colombia (Learning Alliances in Bogota River) (Posted on CW)


  • Sanz, M. Osorio,L. Bogota (2011) Starting at the top: preventing pollution from tanneries and cleaning up the Rio Bogotá (PDF) (Posted CW)


  • Moser, C. “A Conceptual and Operational Framework for Pro-poor Asset Adaptation to Urban Climate Change”. In Cities and Climate Change. Ed. Daniel Hoornweg, Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2011:225-255 (e-book in Clio Cat)


Suggested Bibliography

  • Moreno-Leguizamon, C.; Tovar-Restrepo, Marcela; Irazabal, Clara. The Learning Alliance Methodology: Contributions and Challenges for Multicultural Planning in Health Service Provision. A Case-Study in Kent, UK. Forthcoming in Planning Theory and Practice, 2015


  • Stein, A. and Moser, C. Asset planning for climate change adaptation: lessons from Cartagena, Colombia in Environment and Urbanization, April 2014 26: 166-183


  • Moser, Caroline and Stein, Alfredo. 2016. “Challenging stereotypes about gender vulnerability to climate change: Asset adaptation in Mombasa and Cartagena” in Gender, Assets Accumulation and Just Cities. Pathways to transformation, Caroline Moser (Ed.) London: Routledge PP.181-197


  • Mathie, A., Cameron, J., Gibson K. (2017) Asset-based and citizen-led development: Using a diffracted power lens to analyze the possibilities and challenges in Progress in Development Studies 17, 1 (2017) pp. 54–66 (Posted CW) (TBC)


  • Moser, C and A Stein (2011), “Implementing urban participatory climate change adaptation appraisals: a methodological guideline,” Environment and Urbanization Vol 23, No 2, pages 463–485.


 7    Identities, Diversity and Space: Planning and Intersectionality (10/19)

This class will explore anthropological contributions to gender and intersectionality planning and design, studying how planning and architecture need to integrate identity markers into their social practice. Gender, age, sexuality, ethnicity, location, race and religion, define to an important extent people’s needs, capacities and interests. Proposed urban interventions must identify and respond to them in a sound manner in the context of Bogotá river.


Required Bibliography:

  •  Moser, Caroline. 1993. Gender Planning: Theory, Practice and Training. London: Routledge (Chapters TBA)


  • Irazabal, C., Huerta,C. (2015) “Intersectionality and planning at the margins: LGBTQ youth of color in New York” in Gender, Place and Culture, 2015, Vol.23, Issue 5


Suggested Bibliography:


  • Frisch, Michael. 2015. Finding transformative planning practice in the spaces of intersectionality (Chapter 8) in Planning and LGBTQ Communities: The Need for Inclusive Queer Spaces Chapter 8 pg.129-146. Book in CLIO (Access in campus)


  • Kaijser, A. and Kronsell, A. (2014). Climate change through the lens of intersectionality, Environmental Politics, 23:3, 417-433


  • Chandra Russo, C. and Pattison, A. (2016). “Climate Action Planning: An Intersectional Approach to The Urban Equity Dilemma” in Systemic Crisis of Global Climate Change, Phoebe Godfrey and Denise Torres (Ed.). London: Routledge. Access: Clio Cat.


8    Ludic Planning: games, toys and creative planning (10/26)

This seminar consults the concept of playful participation in urban interventions, including elements like toys and games that can be used as strategies of communication, space appropriation/transformation and creative catalysts. This session will analyze and identify key contributions of these devices to planning and urban design, asking how can they be endured in the Bogotá river scenario.


Required Bibliography (TBC)

9 Joint session - Los Andes University/CIDER (Colombian Team Presentations (11/2)


 11   Planning strategies and designed intervention - Group work: Elaboration of Urban Planning & Design Proposals, Policies, and Programs (11/16)

Students will refine their analyses of the site and communities studied and propose urban interventions (i.e. policies, programs, and plans that promote more equitable and sustainable development). Students will prepare and deliver their final power-point presentation and written reports with their findings and recommendations


Students will build on their Midterm presentations preparing their final analysis and urban intervention proposals.


12       NO CLASS – THANKSGIVING (11/23)


13 Students’ Presentations (11/30)


  1. Public Final presentations – Faculty Critics (12/7)




Course Summary:

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