The program is an interdisciplinary exploration of how the principles of cell and molecular biology and evolution can be applied to the ever-growing challenges facing large cities in the 21st Century. The city of Paris with its remarkable history and diversity (cultural, ethnic and economic) provides an especially rich context for students to learn about and tackle these challenges. Students engage the fundamental biology of how natural selection and adaptation drives evolution at the level of individuals and populations, while exploring important parallels with historical models of urban planning and new conceptions of the Smart City. Student teams use this theoretical foundation to develop specific project designs to improve the quality of life in Paris through effective engagement of its citizens.
The course content and subsequent project designs depend on deep immersion in the geography and culture of Paris. Student teams are composed of both Harvard summer school and French university students. Through deep collaborations with the Centre de Recherches Interdisciplinaires and the Mayor’s office of the city of Paris, students participate in an interdisciplinary community while also exploring multiple geographic, ethnic and cultural areas of the city. This allows them to work with those local communities to understand their perspectives and develop responsive project designs. Community engagement and feedback are an essential component of the program.
Projects are as wildly creative and diverse as the imaginations of the student teams; running the gamut from new software that creates intergenerational community or opens private spaces to public use to novel designs for repurposing urban infrastructure such as la Petite Ceinture. Each project also uses media such as video and animation to communicate the fundamental concepts of the design as well as its motivation. The project designs are open source and shared with the world here on The Biopolis.
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University
Harvard Graduate School of Design
Centre de Recherches Interdisciplinaires