4.241J / 11.330J / 4.251
The Making of Cities

4.252J or 11.001J or permission of instructor
Required of: 
MArch students, SMArchS students

Note: 1/19/18 - room changed from 5-216 to 4-261

U: 4.251; G: 4.251J or 11.330J

Whether planned or unplanned, guided by theory or by ‘organic growth’, making cities is one of the biggest and most consistent of all collective human enterprises.  Our chief interest is in studying the history of how major cities are made, remade, and at points have become ‘unmade’.  The premise of the course is that a city is always shaped by and in turn influences five driving forces: geographic/ecological, economic/social, spiritual, political/military, and technological/material ones.  We view these forces as a causal superstructure and frame for considering how cities develop, and though these lenses we seek to better understand the history of urban form and urbanization.

Why do cities assume the physical form that they do; how do we assess urban morphology?  What caused cities originate and why do they persist, despite current technological abilities to undermine the city?  Do cities have a biological-evolutionary process?  How do cities attract and retain populations?  How have theocratic beliefs shaped city form?  In what ways are cities instruments of control, whether it be though military or political organization?  How does city form structure power relations?  How does it create the public sphere?  Are cities purely nodes of collection, exchange, and distribution, be it for capital or other pooled resources?  How have certain cities impacted others as models for urban form or image?  How are cities interpreted and how are they defined?  What is the historiography of urban planning as a discipline?  Lectures and discussions are organized as a response to questions such as these.

Throughout the course, a two-fold framework will be employed to address the complex development of cities in history: we trace both a diachronic progression of accumulative forms and spaces, in parallel with examining synchronic slices of how new ideas about the city were manifest across distinct geographies and cultures. Beginning with the emergence of cities in the Fertile Crescent and ending with 21st century, urban development will be studied by examining how the five aforementioned forces shaped cities repeatedly.

Additional work required of students taking graduate version.