This atlas-in-progress was composed by undergraduate students enrolled in a seminar devoted to Literature of the City: Between Utopia & Dystopia, Design & Occupation hailing from a wide range of disciplines at the University of Chicago—Philosophy, Mathematics, Political Science, Global Studies, Psychology, English Literature and Creative Writing. A guiding principle of the course is that any map of the city, whether verbal or visual, can constitute as powerful a spatio-social intervention as urban planning itself: shaping space as much as a cut through a labyrinthine medieval quarter of Paris to make a boulevard, or as much as the razing of immigrant neighborhoods to make way for the Dan Ryan Expressway. Another steering principle is that our occupation of the city is not a neutral activity. We opened the Fall quarter with Henri Lefebvre’s eloquent proof that space itself is not inert, but actively produced by social relationships embedded within it—both those “programmed,” in the revealing architectural terminology, and those spontaneous and unplanned. The very perspective of most maps—assuming a generic “bird’s” eye view—may be challenged for neutralizing power relationships and eliminating sense experience. As we learn from the history of mass demonstrations, from the Haymarket Affair through Black Lives Matter, urban assemblies can refashion city space as much as planners like Daniel Burnham can, shattering and radically recasting what is known as “common sense.” These atlas entries rove across media, and treat the city as an organism on a range of scales: that of the wandering individual, such as Virginia Woolf’s Clarissa Dalloway; that of the occupying crowd, as represented in stories by Edgar Allen Poe and theoretical writings by Georg Simmel; that of city planners and developers, such as Baron Haussmann or SOM; and that of those who represent the city, from microcartographers (Joaquín Torres-García) to poets (Carl Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks). Composing an atlas goads us to actively remember this: to be perpetual students and sculptors of the city itself.
—Jennifer Scappettone, Associate Professor