Alexander Felson

Assistant Professor, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Associate Professor Yale School of Architecture; Director, Urban Ecology and Design Laboratory; Director, Joint Degree Program F&ES / SOA

Teaching Statement

COURSE 788b, Applied Urban Ecology 3 credits. Alexander Felson


Ecology is being transformed from a field historically disengaged from the human built environment to one that can provide insight into the understanding, design, and management of the constructed world. Urban ecology is central in this transformation. Urban ecologists are expanding their focus from “ecology in cities” where they studied urban flora and fauna to the “ecology of cities” where they study human-biological interactions, while also increasing their attention to the complex interplay between people, society and environment. This reorientation has also catalyzed action-oriented initiatives.


This course examines the current developments in urban ecology and looks at the transformative role it can play in shaping and managing urban environments. To this end, we will examine fundamental issues in theory and practice that challenge the current understanding of urban ecosystems and that question the relationship between science and action in urban ecology. We will also look at limitations and opportunities for conducting urban ecological research as well as methods specific to urban sites.  The course will include fieldwork augmented with an overview of current literature in urban ecology, focusing on issues relating to science, application, advocacy and contemporary concepts of stewardship. The final project will include an urban ecological design proposal and supporting research paper.



ARCH 4226a / FES 888  Ecological Urban Design 3 credits. Alexander Felson

Ecologists are increasingly interested in studying urban systems and have recently moved beyond the traditional focus from ‘ecology in cities’ to ‘the ecology of cities’. This shift has catalyzed a new discourse in urban ecology, which has given rise to a number of questions: (1) How do we define urban ecosystems? (2) How do we combine science, design and planning to shape and manage urban ecosystems? (3) How do we implement effective and adaptable experimental and monitoring methods specific to urban sites and human subjects in order to conduct viable urban ecological research? Exploring these questions requires designers and ecologists to achieve more familiarity with each others’ areas of expertise including research methods and the scientific process as well as the design process. This course focuses on the application of urban ecology to the design of cities. The course provides an overview of urban ecology and how designers (SOA) and scientists (F&ES) can work in complementary ways to foster dialogue and integrate ecological research and analysis with city planning and design. The course seeks to reposition urban ecology as a practice not only focused on studying urban ecosystems but on a combined effort to study and re-shape them.

ARCH 1022b  Ecological Urban Design 3 credits. Alexander Felson

1022b Urbanism Studio: Design and Visualization 6 credits. Edward Mitchell, Keller Easterling, Bimal Mendis, Michael Young, Alexander J. Felson

This fourth core studio, an introduction to the planning and architecture of cities, concerns two distinct scales of operation: that of neighborhood and that of the dwellings and the institutional and commercial building types that typically contribute to neighborhood. Issues of community, group form, and the public realm, as well as the formation of public space, blocks, streets, and squares are emphasized. The studio is organized to follow a distinct design methodology, which begins with the study of context and precedents. It postulates that new architecture can be made as a continuation and extension of normative urban structure and building typologies. Prerequisites: 1011a, 1012b, 1021a.