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AMS on Site: Curating the City


Admission requirements

The following courses need to be passed:

  • Freshman's Class

  • Academic Skills II

  • One BA2 Seminar


The city is a site of curation. The urban landscape is constantly changing, both in expected and planned ways as well as in unforeseen, surprising ways. These changes affect those living within the city borders, at times improving their living conditions, at other times worsening them. In this course we will discuss various experiences of urbanization, in different time periods, by focusing on one physical sense at a time. We will discuss the effects of seeing the city, listening to it, smelling it, touching it and imagining it. These five different perspectives allow us to pay special attention to the details of these experiences and go beyond our everyday superficial ‘sensing’ of the cities around us. In studying the ways in which people throughout history have experienced their cities, we will look at artworks which represent, or reflect on, these sensual experiences, exploring the strategies artists have used to capture and reproduce sensory observations, going from Early Modern paintings of the senses as allegories, to artistic audio walks through cities, to contemporary artworks reproducing smellscapes.

Each of the senses will be discussed in a lecture and an accompanying seminar session. For each of the seminar sessions, the students will perform an individual assignment in the city; they will for instance record soundscapes, keep a smell diary, draw mental maps, and make imprints of surfaces in the city. Each of these explorations is then discussed in the context of the assigned readings and the lecture material. The individual explorations are collected in a portfolio which is submitted as the individual assignment for the course. In addition, students will also work in groups on a cartography assignment. Each team will create a map of a specific city that visualizes some significant aspects, or set of qualities, they feel are not represented in existing maps. To produce this new cartographic representation, students will formulate a research question, collect data, critically assess that data, and develop a specific representational strategy. The cartographic designs should build on the earlier research assignments and draw inspiration from the artworks discussed. After studying the city in such minute detail, using one sense at a time, the final assignment offers a moment of synthesis. Ultimately, the course aims to open up a new understanding of the urbanized world we live in.

Course objectives

  • Students learn to engage with enquiries into real-world issues and practices through the lenses of Arts, Media and Society.

  • Students learn to study the built environment and learn to draw parallels between present-day cities and those of the past, thereby bridging historical and contemporary notions of the city.

  • Students learn to develop the skills necessary for remembering and recording ‘evidence’ of their observations and experiences.

  • Students learn to use material gathered as a basis for critical reflection and further research.

  • Students learn to use methods to critically analyse their own experiences and positionality in relation to concepts and theories.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

  • Lectures

  • Fieldwork

Assessment method


  • Individual Research Portfolio (50%).

  • Final Group Project (50%).


The weighted average of the assignments must be at least 6.0 (= a pass). A grade between 5.0 and 5.5 for either assignment can be compensated for by the other assignment. Grades below 5.0 for either assignment are not accepted and a resit is required.


In case one (or both) of the assignments receive a grade below 5, a resit is possible, in the form of an extended portfolio. This resit is for the course as a whole and the grade for this assignment comes to replace the two partial grades of the other assignments. The resit grade is therefore automatically the final grade for the course.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

Literature will be announced on Brightspace.


Enrolment through My Studymap (Login | Universiteit Leiden) is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Student administration Arsenaal.