Assignment 1: Evaluating Successful Urban Design

Assigned: Session 1
Due: Session 5, in class

Precedents for future urban design practice are set in many different ways. One important mechanism is the urban design award, with its attendant media coverage. In recent years, there have been two significant awards programs that target urban design issues: the urban design component of the annual Progressive Architecture (P/A) Awards, and the biennial Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence. For this assignment, you are asked to examine the documentation provided in P/A for projects that have received "awards" and "citations" over the last 15 years, and to study the books and website produced by the Bruner Foundation to explain its own choices for "winners" and "finalists." Once you have reviewed this award documentation, please select two award cycles from each award program for further study (e.g., P/A and Rudy Bruner winners for 2002 and 1999), and address the following questions:

  1. How do the P/A and Bruner awards differ from one another in terms of selection criteria and selection process? What do they have in common?
  2. Are the criteria that each award uses consistent from cycle to cycle? Is such consistency desirable?
  3. Which criteria for defining and evaluating urban design are most important to you?
  4. Do the accumulated results of these award programs help identify a common set of important problems to which urban designers must respond? What do they say about the changing nature of urban design? Of cities?

Format and Expectations

  • Your response should be approximately five pages.
  • We will discuss your responses in class Session 5, so no late papers can be accepted.


To assist you with this assignment, students should review the following materials:

  1. Original journal articles. For 1992-1995, see the January issue of P/A each year. For 1996 and beyond, see the following issues of Architecture: May 1996, January 1997, April 1998-2002, January 2003-4.
  2. Bruner Award books, including Connections: Creating Urban Excellence (1991), Rebuilding Communities: Re-Creating Urban Excellence (1993), Building Coalitions for Urban Excellence (1995), Visions of Urban Excellence (1997), Commitment to Place (1999), and Placemaking for Change (2001). See also the Web publication of 2003 winners, along with the books, at the Bruner Foundation. The Foundation has made the last three books available for purchase at the reduced rate of $5 each, and we encourage you to add these to your library. Titles and winners can also be viewed online at the Bruner Foundation.

Assignment 2: Urban Design Futures

Assigned: Session 8
Due: Session 13, in class

This final assignment will be used as the basis for discussion during our class session number 13. Please address the following issues and questions in an essay of approximately 8 pages:

Boston, MA: Conceptualizing Future Trends

During the course of the semester, we have postulated and discussed seven topics that have been alleged to constitute emerging directions of urban design practice:

  1. Inventing new ways of living: Homes and neighborhoods
  2. Distributing work: The workplace
  3. The advent of "mediated" space: Public places and technology
  4. Creating a city of learning: Schools and stories in the city
  5. Reclaiming the industrial landscape: Land and water infrastructure
  6. Rediscovering nature: Natural systems in the city
  7. Ubiquitous security: New forms of urban identity

Of the above seven trends discussed in class, choose three to discuss in the context of Boston and its surrounding region. What would Boston be like if these chosen trends become the norm in urban design and in policy decisions? What would the city look like? Would it work? Are these trends in conflict with one another? Do they support some underlying mega trends that affect the form and function of cities (and Boston in particular)? In your description of a Boston influenced by these trends, can you identify something missing from the themes and topics we have discussed in class? Give specific examples to support your statements in all cases.