The topic of solar orientation and urban form is both perennial and, once again, timely. The discourses and practices of ‘ecological urbanism’ have turned our focus to the terrestrial topics of hydrological connectivity and ecological function. Heliomorphism proposes to revise and extend the ecological urbanism agenda by returning to solar performance. Recent projects by a number of leading architects and urbanists have suggested new forms of urban order through solar orientation. In many of these projects, designers correlate the shape of the city to a complex and contradictory economy of solar performance.
The topics of solar orientation and social order, public health, and political economy were fundamental questions for many protagonists and projects of modern planning. In the wake of the collapse of modern planning, singular models of social urban order based on latitude and solar equity have given way to neoliberal models of market driven urbanization. The inaugural conference of the Harvard GSD Office for Urbanization returns to this archaic aspect of urban order, and convenes an international group of GSD faculty and doctoral candidates, as well as a select group of GSD alumni to examine its present potentials through three discursive frames: plug-ins, commons, and zero-sum.