Yale architecture exhibition takes on global problem: Envisioning the ‘City of 7 billion’

A new exhibition at the Yale School of Architecture (YSoA) will consider the impact of population growth and resource consumption by examining the entire world as a single urban entity. On view Sept. 3 through Nov. 14, “City of 7 Billion: A Constructed World” includes models, drawings, and animations that reframe the world as one city.

The exhibition is free and open to the public at the YSoA Gallery, 180 York St., Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

In 2011, the world population reached 7 billion people. It is expected to increase by another 2 billion by 2050. The demands of this population growth have created a completely interconnected and urbanized world, note the exhibit organizers: No part remains unaffected by the cumulative impact of human activity.

“The world has become the most important design problem of our time. The city is a medium to address this problem,” say researchers and the exhibition curators Joyce Hsiang ’99, ’03 M.Arch., principal of Plan B Architecture and Urbanism and critic at YSoA, and Bimal Mendis ’98, ’02 M.Arch., YSoA’s assistant dean and director of undergraduate studies. “As crises and opportunities transcend city and national borders, the necessity for architects and designers to operate at the scale of the world has never been more urgent.”

“City of 7 Billion: A Constructed World” explores humanity as a geological force. Drawing on contemporary discussions of the Anthropocene — the proposed epoch in which human activity is permanently transforming the world — the exhibition models the phenomenon of global development.

“The show brings together abstract information from across scientific, engineering, and architectural communities, and makes it accessible,” said Hsiang. “It makes the invisible visible, so it can be understood.”

The exhibition features original models and drawings, including a 14-foot spherical model of the material infrastructures that physically shape and connect the world; a 52-foot-long city topography model that analyzes the implication of population growth over time; a 255-foot-long panorama that explores the edges of urbanization across air, land, and water; and 14 sectional core samples of the world that examine the depths of human activity. In addition to these models, a series of drawings, animations, and curated historical content will illuminate the spatial implications of these global processes.

A related symposium, “A Constructed World,” will gather leading experts from architecture, anthropology, economics, geography, and philosophy to address how humankind is playing a decisive role in shaping the world. Speakers will include Peter Sloterdijk, professor of philosophy and media theory at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design; Kathryn Sullivan, administrator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the first American woman to walk in space; William Nordhaus, Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale; Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT; and Liam Young, director of the Unknown Fields Division at the Architectural Association in the United Kingdom.

The symposium, supported by the J. Irwin Miller Fund, will take place from Oct. 1 to Oct. 3 in Hastings Hall, 180 York St. The event is free and open to the public; registration is required.

The exhibition, “City of 7 Billion: A Constructed World,” will include work from the symposium participants, who are among a constellation of contemporary thinkers operating on a global scale.

“City of 7 Billion: A Constructed World” is the culmination of a two-year project that builds on previous research on issues of global urbanization and sustainability. In 2013, Hsiang and Mendis received the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows Latrobe Prize, which funds research that leads to advances in architecture. The research project has also received additional funding from the Hines Research Grant for Advanced Sustainability. The exhibition is supported in part by the Yale School of Architecture’s exhibition program.

The project and exhibition team is led by Hsiang and Mendis, and includes Robert Cannavino ’14 M.Arch., Andrew Ruff ’15 M.E.D., Brent Sturlaugson ’15 M.E.D., and Miroslava Brooks ’12 M.Arch. The YSoA exhibition team includes Alfie Koetter ’11 M.Arch., director of exhibitions, and Alison Walsh, exhibition coordinator.

Media Contact

Amy Athey McDonald: amy.mcdonald@yale.edu,