Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


From One-North, Singapore to Crossroads Copenhagen, cities, developers, and advanced technologyand media companies are seeking to integrate advanced technology into the urban environment in a series of large-scale urban projects. These projects aim to create extraordinary value across multiple dimensions: enhancing physical livability, building social capital, and attracting companies, new ideas, and investment to their cities and nations. Will they succeed in generating value for developers, governments, and users as they promise? Separating lore from reality in preparation for a conference with real estate, government and technology professionals in January is the primary objective of the bi-weekly faculty-student seminar entitled New Century Cities. The first seminar session will introduce and analyze a list of relevant projects in the United States and abroad that are already implementing cutting-edge ideas. The second meeting will focus on understanding the value proposition various stakeholders (users, developers, government entities, advanced technology and media companies) are pursuing in these new projects. The following sessions will be devoted to particular aspects of the value proposition, namely technological value, social value, urban design (place) value, and real estate financial value. The course draws on faculty members from the Center for Real Estate, the City Design and Development Group (Department of Urban Studies and Planning), and the Media Lab to explore extraordinary projects that challenge conventional approaches to real estate development, urban design, and advanced digital technology.

Several key research questions motivate the agenda:

  1. Will our use of the city change as media and communication technologies permeate everyday life? Will new patterns of living and working emerge?
  2. What form of places and projects will be demanded to serve these new activities?
  3. Which technologies are most relevant to the design of new real estate products and urban spaces?
  4. Are the physical boundaries of public and private shifting in these cutting-edge developments? What questions of accessibility does this raise within the projects and in city spaces on a broader scale?
  5. How can real estate developers earn a premium by proposing cutting-edge projects that incorporate advanced technology and fine-grained physical design?
  6. In building the New Century City, what is the role of the private sector and the public? Where are their realms?
  7. What new partnerships are being formed among media and advanced technology companies, developers and government entities to implement cutting-edge developments? What new management and pricing strategies will emerge?
  8. Where will long-term value be created? Who will benefit … and who may loose?

Course Structure and Requirements


Six sessions will be held over the course of the semester approximately every two weeks (please refer to the calendar for the scheduled dates). Each session has been given a thematic title but the content is very flexible and can be expanded according to participants' interests. Discussions will be initiated by one or two participants or guests who will present key challenges and questions to the group at the beginning of class.

Requirements and Credit

Participation and presence at all of the sessions is essential to the course's research objective. Presence at each of the sessions is mandatory for any credit recipients. Generally, the course will only be open to auditors who have discussed their participation with one of the faculty members.

The course initiators aim to generate several working papers that will assist with framing the January conference to be held at the Center for Real Estate (see detailed description below).


Session 1: Introduction and Case Studies

We will kick-off the seminar with the introduction of several project case studies that will serve as examples of new types of development projects. What makes these cutting-edge proposals different from "science cities" and "technopoles" of the '80s and '90s? The project summaries will give an overview of the physical, real estate and social aspects of each development.

Session 2: Placemaking and Urban Design Value

Adding a layer of technology to the urban real creates another dimension for placemaking that has not been available for the creation of real estate value or urban design quality in the past. How does the overlapping of uses benefit these projects? Can these lessons be applied throughout the city? What does it take to generate the vibrancy so touted by the projects' initiators? And finally, are developers able to effectively capitalize on their investment? Which trends seem to indicate the most promising directions?

Session 3: Urban Technology Value

What are the key urban technologies that the featured development project incorporate? An introduction to a range of elements (wireless electronic access, programmable signage and facades, sensing and tagging (RFID), and ubiquitous broadband internet) will be followed by more detailed presentations from invited guests.

Session 4: Social Value

The social value aspect of these projects refers both to users and the development parties. On the one hand, new actors are initiating the projects. On the other, more diverse users are targeted for these environments. Partnerships among advanced technology and media companies, developers, and government representatives involved in these recent examples seem to differ from public-private partnerships developing large-scale projects in the '80s and '90s. What are the new organizational arrangements necessary to develop the vision for these projects and manage the growth and operation of the completed physical environments? Who are the users targeted by these projects? Are they the winners? And which urban residents are excluded? What can be said about the equity aspects involved in these cutting-edge developments that incorporate more cross-functional and supposedly public spaces?

Session 5: Real Estate Value

Building on the discussion from Session 1, this meeting will focus on the value proposition itself. How is technology being leveraged to generate more real estate value? Are there social, environmental, and other benefits that can be derived to generate lasting value? How can we begin to determine and parse out the benefits to various stakeholders such as advanced technology and media companies, developers, and cities?

Session 6: Reflection

The final session will be devoted to reflection and concluding thoughts. How do the four sides of the value proposition (Real estate, Social, Urban Design, Technology) presented by these cutting-edge projects work together? What expected and unexpected findings can we record from the semester?

Center for Real Estate Conference

The Center for Real Estate (CRE) is hosting a conference to explore how a small number of cities throughout the world are creating a new generation of large-scale, mixed use development projects in the third week of January 2005. Ranging from One-North, Singapore to Helsinki and from the area around MIT to Florianopolis, Brazil, these areas enhance livability, integrate digital media into their physical fabric and promote the creation of social capital. The primary objectives of the conference/workshop are:

  • Build our collective knowledge about how a range of projects, implemented in different cultural and business environments, create social capital for their host cities and nations and provide value for all of the partners in the development process.
  • Focus our understanding of how the use of the city may change as media and communication technologies permeate everyday life and change the fabric of our communities.
  • Consider scenarios about how these projects may develop in the future and how lessons learned may be adopted by mainstream development projects.
  • Explore how value will be created, who will benefit and who may lose.
  • Strengthen our ability to act through partnerships that extend beyond government and real estate developers to include advanced technology and media firms, institutions and community groups.