Humanities 'Design Studios'

In a multi-tiered Humanities ‘Design’ Studio, participants can develop processes for producing imaginative solutions to problems that are complex in form, content, and scale. They can explore questions, assemble information, consult specialists, analyze precedents, test techniques, study contexts, generate insights, imagine new worlds, or consider new forms of communication. Two of these studios will be hosted each academic year and will be competitively-selected, conducted as 3-credit courses, and ‘vertically’ organized to include, ideally, four humanities doctoral students as well as four masters students from the School of Architecture or advanced undergraduate students from any area. This structure will foster mentorship between students by allowing them to share their diverse humanistic knowledge and technical skillsets. Studios will have a budget for materials, software licenses, digital fabrication, graphic design, server space, disk storage, and other costs directly related to the teaching of the studio and to the development of projects within the studio. Studio participants may also enlist the expertise of a GIS Specialist/Developer affiliated with the Initiative who will assist with the visualization needs that projects might require and provide tutorials in GIS applications as needed.


Port Cities of the Atlantic World
Alida Metcalf, John Mulligan

This design studio repurposes a research seminar on the economic, social, and spatial characteristics of Atlantic World port cities in order to give graduate students direct and cutting edge exposure to digital and spatial humanities. As before, students will research and write a seminar paper on the port city of their choice, but at every step along the way the course will focus on the platforms increasingly used by historians, such as Zotero, Tropy, Omeka, digital libraries, and digital databases. Students will participate in the development of the Special Collections App, which is a platform designed at Rice University by the instructors that offers humanities scholars new ways of conceptualizing, viewing, and interpreting their research.


Dawn Finley

Pliable advocates for the immediacy of material investigations and fabrication in architecture. This proposed "studio" undertakes unconventional design experiments using high-performance textiles, aiming to produce a diverse collection of architectural objects that foreground contemporary issues of inhabitation and enclosure. Textiles have historically been an integral part of architecture's disciplinary domain. In 1851, the German architect and historian Gottfried Semper identified the textile enclosure as one of four fundamental elements of architecture. Semper's definition precedes advances in textile technologies that have allowed contemporary fiber and composite materials to perform in more sophisticated diversified ways; yet textiles maintain a somewhat singular, peripheral role in architectural discourse and production. Pliable aims to rethink the material application and assembly potentials of textiles in architecture; and to discover alternative influences that shape current disciplinary sensibilities.

Mapping New Media: theory, aesthetics, politics
Michael Miller

This course invites students to interrogate the Spatial Humanities from the perspective of critical media studies. Through its emphasis on the computational media that shape the Spatial Humanities, “Mapping New Media: Theory, Aesthetics, Politics” will introduce students to basic concepts, methods, and debates in the Spatial Humanities by locating and mapping the complex relations between new media technologies, “born-digital” cultural production, and their increasing reach into contemporary theoretical, political, and cultural discourses. This course will also provide students with opportunities to develop relevant technical skills in GIS and network analysis.


Underground Spatialities: Volumetric Space, Movement, and Water
Marie Saldana, Andrea Ballestero

The analysis of space has been historically dominated by a horizontal imaginary that privileges notions of wayfaring and planar geometries. This class introduces students to the theoretical, phenomenological and political implications of thinking about space volumetrically and kinesthetically. It builds on scholarship that calls our attention to the geopolitics of volumetric space using underground water movement as a case study. We will focus on three underground formations: Rice University's tunnel system, the Natural Bridge Caverns near San Antonio, and the Houston Cistern. The course combines insights from science, anthropology and the humanities and offers an opportunity for students to translate those insights into a collective multimedia exploration of underground space that will combine photogrammetric modeling, sound, film and photography. With the support of the instructors, students will design and produce a collective installation based on directed research of existing data and field research in the region. Students will gain practical skills on how to conceptualize a spatial exploration, collect and combine existing research, translate it into an installation, and coordinate its execution in some cases doing the field work themselves. Furthermore, students will learn how to merge those skills with creative, sensory material approaches to result in an audio-visual-sculptural installation, The installation will open to the public in conjunction with the annual Salon organized by the Ethnography Studio run by Dr. Andrea Ballestero out of the Anthropology Department at Rice. At the end of the course students will have the analytical and practical skills to design their own investigations of space by translating theoretical and empirical resources into multimedia tools.

The American 1930s
Laura Richardson

The American 1930s witnessed a natural and manmade topographical dynamism unmatched by any other modern U.S. decade. What are the connections between a rapidly remolding American landscape and the coevolution of modernist aesthetics in the 1930s? This course encourages students to answer this question from the perspective of a spatial humanist—a scholar who considers the roles of time, place, and landscape in micro-stories of everyday life and the macro-narratives of the broader human condition.

The Social Lives of Buildings
Elisabeth Narkin

This course introduces spatial theory and digital technologies as methods of conducting humanities research. Deploying these tools, participants in the studio will examine the architectural, urban, and social spaces of early modern France (1500-1700), exploring how these spaces shaped individuals’ and groups’ interactions. Stretching from the Italian Wars to the court's reorganization at Versailles, this dynamic era’s spaces advanced human goals, but they also transformed economics, politics, and religion. Together, we will explore technologies for mapping (ArcGIS, Google Earth), modeling (Sketch-Up), and network analysis (Palladio, Tableau). 


Procedural Greco-Roman Cities
Marie Saldaña

Procedural modeling enables the efficient modeling of entire cities from scripts, or "rules." In this course, students will learn critical and hands-on approaches to the interpretation and documentation of the historical built environment through the use of GIS databases and procedural 3D scene creation. Students will work with the Roman City Ruleset, a library of procedural rules for Esri CityEngine, to model different sites in Roman Asia Minor. Choosing from a selection of site plans, students will apply the ruleset to model a comprehensive view of the city and its landscape, while critically investigating the procedural methodology through a series of theoretical readings and discussions.

Space/Time/Travel, 1400-1700
Elisabeth Narkin, Kyle G. Sweeney

This course interrogates the relationship between space and travel in the late medieval and early modern periods. It explores domestic, religious, urban, ceremonial, and natural spaces through the eyes of artists, architects, and ambassadors. Students learn to digitize historical data, map spatial networks in ArcGIS, and georeference historical images.