Lecture Notes


Part 1: Urban Design Now


Designing Places and Policies

Introduction to the seminar and subject material.

What do urban designers do and why do they do it? What are the larger forces that help give direction to the types of projects that seem to be emerging as important? Is there a difference between the conception of urban design held by architects seeking to intervene at a larger scale and by planners seeking to improve the quality of the physical environment? On what basis do we (or should we) judge urban design quality?


Assessing the Current State of Urban Design

Discussion of themes and cases to be discussed during March and April.

What are the important socio-environmental issues that urban designers must contend with currently? Which urban design approaches and agendas of the recent past now seem outdated and no longer "of the future"? How are urban design precedents set and transmitted? How is the nature of cities changing and how does this affect urban design practice?


Urban Design Competitions and How to Judge Them

What can be learned from the study of recent urban design competitions? What kinds of new urban fabrics are being proposed by leading urban designers? What are the strengths and weaknesses of urban design competitions as instigators of "good" urban design ideas?

Case: World Trade Center Master Plan and Memorial Competitions

Guest: Frank Sanchez, The Municipal Art Society (tentative)


Evaluating Urban Design

How should we judge "urban excellence"? Is this the same thing as "excellent urban design?" How do we judge the longevity and/or future significance of present day projects? Are these issues important?

Case: Rudy Bruner Awards, 2003

Guests: Rudy Bruner Foundation officials


Discussion of Assignment 1

Part 2: Assessing Urban Design Future


Past Futures

How was the present envisioned in the past? What models of future urban form and function emerged in the 20th century? How effective were they in shaping the present? What do they say about current models of the future?


Industrial visions: Italian Futurists; "World of Tomorrow"
Modernist visions: Broad-acre City; Radiant City
"Go-go" visions: Metabolists; Archigram
"No-go" visions: The 80's and 90's


Topic 1: Inventing New Ways of Living: Homes and Neighborhoods

How will demographic trends such as the aging population affect demands for housing design and the formation of neighborhoods? What will these trends mean for the existing urban housing stock? What affect will communications technology have on daily quality of life? What about new live-work arrangements? What are the alternatives to class-stratified, uniformly designed residential developments?


House_n MIT
CyberHome, Chino Hills, CA
Miniature Homes

Hismen Hin-nu Terrace (San Antonio NDC), Oakland, CA
Rosa Vista, Mesa, AZ
Life Care Communities

Stoudtburg Village in Adamstown, Pa
Rosemary Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Fla
Marina Heights, Kirkland, Wash

Respondents (tentative)

Kent Larson, MIT
Lee Cott, Harvard


Topic 2: Distributing Work: The New Workplace

How is work and production now being organized? Where is work being done? What is the changing nature of the "workplace" and does this concept make sense anymore? What effects will these changes have on real estate, development products and programming? What is the future of the high-rise office building? Factories? Other places of work?


VW Glaserne Factory, Dresden
Autocity, Wolfsburg
Carl Zeiss Plant/University, Jena, Germany

Chiat/Day Offices, New York
SAS Headquarters, Stockholm
BA Waterside Complex, Heathrow, London
Mixed use urban offices

Respondents (tentative)

Michael Joroff
William Porter


Topic 3: The Advent of "mediated" space: Public Places and Technology

How will advanced communication technologies and media affect the form and function of cities? What technologies are available and who will control them? Will they change and energize the use of public space? Is a new kind of space emerging?


2nd generation technopoles:
Seoul Digital Media City
Singapore One North Science Park
Helsinki Virtual Village
Crossroads Copenhagen
Media Park Cologne

Urban retrofit:
Lower Manhattan
Bryant Park
Samsung's U-city project
Ubiquitous computing

Respondents (tentative)

Bill Mitchell
Carlo Ratti


Topic 4: Creating a City of Learning: Schools and Stories in the City

How can schools become "centers" for communities? Can the construction of design-enhanced narratives and designed arts and culture districts give new value to places? How can we come to terms with the merits and drawbacks of "themed environments?" Is a new kind of public realm emerging that merges information and form?


Public learning:
Patterson, Union City and Trenton, NJ schools
West Main Street Corridor, Charlottesville, VA
UC Irvine Main Street, CA

Narrative places:
Llobregat River Corridor; Agrarian Park, Catalunya, Spain
Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Area
Allegheny Ridge State Heritage Park, PA
Automobile National Heritage Area, Detroit
Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

Arts districts:
Worcester Arts District, Worcester, MA
DownCity, Providence, Rhode Island

Respondents (tentative)

Steve Heikin
Susan Silberberg


Topic 5: Reclaiming the industrial landscape: Land and Water Infrastructure

How can industrial landscapes and underused urban port infrastructure be transformed to serve a post-industrial economy and culture? What is the right balance between preserving the waterfront for traditional uses and developing new uses and activities? Who should decide?


Huangpu River Vision Plan, Shanghai
London Docklands
Narragansett Landing, Providence, Rhode Island
Waterfront, Cape Town
Flats Oxbow Long-Range Development Plan, Cleveland, OH
La Vieux Port de Montreal

Central Artery, Boston
Southwest Corridor, Boston, MA
Cheonggye Expressway, Seoul
Park East Expressway, Milwaukee
Viaduc des Artes, Paris
Promenade Plantee, Paris


Dennis Pieprz
Ken Kruckemeyer


Topic 6: Rediscovering Nature: Natural Systems in the City

How will cities be shaped by the need to sustain natural systems? What does this mean for managing the environment on a regional level? How will technology come into play?


Urban recovery:
West Philadelphia Landscape Project
Charles River Basin Project
Boston Harbor Beaches

Haymount, VA
Woodlands, Texas
Redland Preservation Plan, FL
Farmview, Yardley, PA
Portola Valley Ranch, Portola Valley, CA
Village Homes, Davis, CA
Tama New Town, Japan


Anne Whiston Spirn
Eran Ben-Joseph


What Have We Missed?

What are common themes among the topics we discussed? Do they add up to a larger vision of the future city? What topics have we not discussed? How will these affect future form and function?


Redesigning Urban Design

What will urban designers be doing in fifty years?