Spaces of Utopia

Contemporary art and the environment. University of Chicago. 2005


An inter-disciplinary class led by visiting artist Nils Norman organised by the Department of Visual Arts and Environmental Studies program of the University of Chicago in conjunction with the SMART Museum's exhibition Beyond Green, curated by Stephanie Smith.

The class met every friday at different locations from september 30 to November 18 2005.

The class consisted of 15 graduate and undergraduate students from different departments of the University, including Geography, Economics, English Literature, Visual Arts and Environmental Studies.


WEEK ONE – Friday, 30 September

Meeting Site: Midway Studios (6016 Ingleside Ave – Room 217)

Introduction to course

Critical Mass Bike Ride 5.30pm

WEEK TWO – Friday, 7 October

Meeting Site: The Smart Museum of Art (5550 S. Greenwood Ave)

Tour of the exhibition Beyond Green with curator Stephanie Smith

Tour of Dan Peterman's Experimental Station

Walking Woodlawn tour led by Dan S. Wang

Tour of First Presbyterian Church Community Food Center Development Project organised by Growing Power

Required Readings:


Bloom, Brett and Bromberg, Ava. Belltown Paradise/Making Their Own Plans, Whitewalls, 2005


Wang, Dan S. Downtime at the Experimental Station: A Conversation with Dan Peterman, Temporary Services Publication, 2004.

(entire text)


D’Eramo, Marco. The Pig and the Skyscraper: Chicago a History of our Future, Verso, 2002. 

(Concluding chapter, Metacity: Market Missionaries Besieged in Fort Science)

WEEK THREE – Friday, 14 October

Meeting Site: Little Village Justice Organisation, 2856 S. Millard Ave

Toxic Tour of Little Village led by the Little Village Justice Organisation

Required Readings:

Finkelpearl, Tom. Dialogues in Public Art, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2000.

(Introduction, The City as Site)


Norman, Nils. An Architecture of Play: A Survey of London’s Adventure Playgrounds, Four Corners Books, 2004.(entire text)


Norman, Nils. The Contemporary Picturesque, Book Works, 2000.

(entire text)


Harvey, David. Spaces of Hope, University of California Press, 2000.

(Chapter 8, Spaces of Utopia)

WEEK FOUR – Friday, 21 October

Meeting Site: The Resource Centre, 1325 E. 70th Street. 2.30pm

Tour of the Resource Center's recycling, composting and community gardening initiative with the director Ken Dunn


Tyner White gave us a presentation of his various scavenged wood products, musical instruments and toys
Classmate Sara Black presented her collaborative project Material Exchange

Required Readings:

Florida, Richard. The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, Basic Books, 2004. 

(Chapter 1, The Transformation of Everyday Life)


Lefebvre, Henri. The Urban Revolution, University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

(Chapter 1, From the City to Urban Society)

(out of class event)

Thursday 20 October Jean Luc Godard's Alphaville. DOC cinema 7pm

WEEK FIVE – Friday, 28 October

Meeting Site: 1741 n. western. The blue line, get off at Western. 2.30pm

Tour of the Acme Artists Community Center and Housing initiative, with Laura Weathered

Algren and the Anarchists: A tour of Wicker Park, the site of novelist Nelson Algren's work and the home to the martyred Haymarket defendants by historian/critic Warren Leming

(out of class event)


Critical Mass Halloween Ride 5.30pm Daley Plaza

Required Readings:

Harvey, David. Spaces of Hope, University of California Press, 2000.

(Chapter 9, Dialectical Utopianism)


Florida, Richard. The Rise of the Creative Class, Basic Books, 2002.

(Chapter 12, The Power of Place)


Careri, Francesco. Walkscapes: Walking as an aesthetic practice, Editorial Gustavo Gili, 2002.

(Chapter 1, Walkscapes)


Wolff, Janet. Feminine Sentences: Essays on Women and Culture, University of California Press, 1991. 

(Chapter 3, The Invisible Flaneuse: Women and the Literature of Modernity)

(out of class event)

Wednesday October 26, 7:00 p.m. International House
DAVID HARVEY speaking on his book, A Brief History of Neoliberalism
Thursday October 27, 4:30 p.m SS 122, 3CT Distinguished Lecture Series, Theorizing the Present
DAVID HARVEY, Cosmopolitanism and the geographies of freedom

WEEK SIX – Friday, 4 November

Friends of the Chicago River Tour
Meeting Site: Midway Studios

Required Readings:


Smithson, Robert. Collected Writings, ed Jack Flam, University of California Press, 1996. 

(A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic New Jersey, {1967})


Florida, Richard. The Rise of the Creative Class, Basic Books, 2002. 
(Chapter 14, Technology, Talent and Tolerance)


Benjamin, Walter. Charles Baudelaire: A lyric poet in the era of high capitalism, Verso, 1985.
(Chapter 2, The Flaneur)

WEEK SEVEN – Friday, 11 November

Walking Tour of The Kinzie Industrial Corridor with artist Melinda Fries
Meeting Site: 1958 W. Walnut St. 2.30pm

Required Readings:

Florida, Richard. The Rise of the Creative Class, Basic Books, 2002.

(Chapter 16, Building the Creative Economy)


Lefebvre, Henri. The Urban Revolution. University of Minnesota Press, 2003.



Ford, Simon. The Situationist International: A user's guide, Black Dog Publishing, 2005.

(Chapter 1)

WEEK EIGHT – Friday, 18 November

Meeting Site: Metra Station 55th St

Exploration of the Pedway with class readings

Public Art in the Loop:Chicago's Outdoor Museum a tour by Terry Sullivan from Chicago Walking Tours

A virtual tour of Millennium Park
(If you have an MP3 player please download the tour for free before coming to class and bring it on the day. Or pay $5 at the park to rent a virtual tour)

Required Readings:

Florida, Richard. The Rise of the Creative Class, Basic Books, 2002.

(Chapter 17, The Creative Class Grows Up)


Deutsche, Rosalyn. Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics, MIT Press, 1996. 


The Class

Sara Black
Alta Buden
David Hernandez
Kasia Houlihan
Andrew Kromer
Teage O'Connor
Jess Orfe
Liz Santori
Cat Scharon
Noah Schwartz
Nick Simmons
Bethany Strout
Megan Tormey
Emily Zobel

TA: Kristin Greer Love

Week one. 30.9.05. First day at school. Daley Plaza

Week two. 7.10.05. A tour of the Experimental Station with Dan Peterman

Dan S.Wang's walking tour of Woodlawn

Greenhouse and small urban farm at the First Presbyterian Church, Woodlawn

Week three. 14.10.05. Toxic tour of Little Village with LVJO's Kim Wasserman

A stop at Hobo Hills in Little Village

Week four. 21.10.05. Ken Dunn talks to the class on a heap of compost

During the class a truck arrives to deliver food waste from the university's canteens

Engineer Tyner White's tour of The Maxwood Institute of Treeconomics

Week five. 28.10.05. Touring Acme Artists Housing initiative

Warren Leming's walking tour of Wicker Park

Week six. 4.11.05. The class listen to Joni Marin from the Friends of the Chicago River on a dead tree in Labagh woods

The Chicago river

The tour continued along the river path at dusk, together with some bats

Week seven. 11.11.05. Melinda Fries's garden

Touring the industrial corridor

Melinda Fries talks about a mural on the tour

Week eight. 18.11.05. A tour and readings in the Pedway

East to Pedway

The Pedway elevator

The mysterious West Pedway

The Skyway

Terry Sullivan's downtown plaza art tour

Completed class assignments