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Urban Infrastructure with Adonia Lugo

URS 5240

*bi·o·mim·ic·ryˌ bīōˈmiməkrē/

noun 1. the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modeled on biological entities and processes.

Adonia Lugo, Ph.D., is an urban anthropologist, and adjunct faculty for AULA’s MA in Urban Sustainability program. She is a bike enthusiast, who has conducted much of her anthropological study and research from the vantage point of cycling, walking, and public transit.

How do we, as humans, inhabit our cities and streets? How do our habits and assumptions align with, support, or compete with nature?

Students in this course are encouraged to seek solutions for urban infrastructure through the application of new methods that use biomimicry* and ecological systems design to produce smaller scale, distributed alternatives that are less resource-intensive.

She is the third instructor for Urban Infrastructure and approaches the course from the perspective of “human infrastructure,” which examines the role of culture and social networks in how we relate to our environments.

She began designing the current syllabus by reading through older versions. The first instructor also had a social science background, which Lugo appreciated for its emphasis on social process. The second instructor was an architectural historian, and his syllabus approached infrastructure from a more artistic and aesthetically-influenced design perspective. “LA has been a hub for people who are interested in looking at large-scale infrastructure systems from a visual standpoint, with organizations like the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Culver City commissioning multimedia projects on infrastructure topics,” she writes.

Lugo has students write reflection papers about their own interactions with infrastructure systems and about a tour they’ve taken of some infrastructure system. In their final project, they propose changes that would make that system more sustainable.

She has experimented with having students curate their own reading. “This can be very educational for me since students are often more tied into emerging sustainability work in the region than I am,” Lugo writes. This semester she is excited about creating, along with her students, multimedia lectures that explore the ways people have layered humanmade infrastructure systems over underlying ecologies. The class will investigate water, energy, waste, mobility, and health systems as related to this theme of humans in opposition/ cooperation with nature.

One important goal of the class is to empower students to innovate infrastructure changes within their own interest areas.

So hop on your bike, lace up your kicks, or flag down that bus; we’re on our way to the future!




Malia Gaffney holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. She lives in LA.
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