This Course at MIT

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Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 4.241J/11.330J Theory of City Form as it was taught by Prof. Julian Beinart in Spring 2013.

This course that has been offered every year at MIT since 1956. First developed and taught by Prof. Kevin Lynch, the course was then adopted by Prof. Beinart, who has taught the course for the past 36 years. This advanced-level course is intended to present various theories of city form, along with appropriate case studies, in order to build students’ understanding of urbanism and architecture and to enable them to apply such considerations in future practices.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • To explore in depth the history and development of city form by building upon foundational knowledge from previous coursework and examining multiple case studies
  • To draw connections between urbanism and architecture, as well as historical, social, and economic influences
  • To formulate one’s own perspective on and understanding of city form, and to be confident in incorporating these into professional practice

Possibilities for Further Study/Careers

Students are expected to continue their work in architecture and urban studies. Many of the graduate students already possess a professional background in these fields of study.

 

Curriculum Information

Prerequisites

Requirements Satisfied

  • H-Level Graduate Credit
  • Required for SMArchS

Offered

Every spring semester

The Classroom

  • Tiered lecture hall with projector screen and blackboards at the front of the room.

    Lecture

    This course is taught in tiered, lecture-style classroom. Prof. Beinart uses the blackboard for diagrams and drawings, and two slide projectors when showing examples and introducing case studies.

 

Student Information

On average, about 30 students take this course each year.

Breakdown by Degree Program

1/3 Master of Architecture, 1/3 Master of Science in Architectural Studies, 1/3 other graduate programs

Breakdown by Major

2/3 from Department of Architecture, 1/3 from Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Typical Student Background

Students possess varying academic backgrounds and work experience, but share common knowledge in urbanism. The class demographic, on occasion, includes undergraduates, cross-registered students, and visiting scholars.

Ideal Class Size

Because the course is lecture-based, class size is not restricted. In the past, enrollment has ranged from 25 to 50 students.

 
 

How Student Time Was Spent

Students had the option of enrolling in this class for either 9 or 12 credits. Those enrolled for 12 units were expected to spend more time working on their term paper outside of class. During an average week, students were expected to spend either 9 or 12 hours on the course, dependent on the number of units enrolled, roughly divided as follows:

Lecture

3 hours per week
  • Two 1.5-hour lectures per week; 26 class sessions total
  • Lectures include an hour of the professor’s discourse, followed by showing of slides.
  • Slides include visual examples demonstrating the discussed theories and case studies.
 

Out of Class

6-9 hours per week
  • Readings in preparation for class sessions
  • Term paper (length and topic dependent upon number of units enrolled)
 

Semester Breakdown

WEEK M T W Th F
1 No classes throughout MIT. Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No classes throughout MIT.
2 No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled.
3 No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled.
4 No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled.
5 No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled.
6 No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled.
7 No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled.
8 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
9 No session scheduled. Lecture session, paper proposal due. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled.
10 No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled.
11 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No classes throughout MIT.
12 No session scheduled. Lecture session. No classes throughout MIT. Lecture session. No session scheduled.
13 No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled.
14 No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled.
15 No session scheduled. Lecture session. No session scheduled. Lecture session, final paper due. No classes throughout MIT.
16 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
Displays the color and pattern used on the preceding table to indicate dates when classes are not held at MIT. No classes throughout MIT
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when class sessions are held. Lecture session
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when no class session is scheduled. No class session scheduled
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table which indicates dates when the paper proposal and final paper are due. Paper proposal due (week 9), final paper due (week 15)
 

Instructor Insights

Professor sitting in his office.
Prof. Beinart in his office, surrounded by materials from both teaching and practice. (Image courtesy of MIT OpenCourseWare.)

In the following pages, Prof. Beinart describes various aspects of how he teaches 4.241J/11.330J Theory of City Form.

Below are links to videos produced by Prof. Lynch as part of his studies into the theory of city form and of human perceptions of the city.