“On the basis of a structural understanding of Manhattan, for example, one can order a substantial quantity of facts and fancies about the nature of the world we live in. A vivid and integrated physical setting, capable of producing a sharp image, plays a social role as well. It can furnish the raw material for the symbols and collective memories of group communication.

“A good environmental image gives its possessor an important sense of emotional security. This is the obverse of the fear that comes with disorientation. Potentially, the city is in itself the powerful symbol of a complex society.”

Buy at MIT Press Lynch, Kevin. The Image of the City. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960, pp. 4-5. ISBN: 0262620014.

Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours per session

Course Description

This is a class about how cities, suburbs, and metropolitan areas change. It is an introductory subject for undergraduates that examines both the evolving structure of the American metropolis and the ways that it can be designed and developed. We will survey the ideas of a wide range of people who have addressed urban problems and acted to alter cities, suburbs, and regions through urban design and development. We will analyze the values implicit in each of their proposals, stressing the connections between ideas and design. We will look at designs for new towns and examine the ways that existing cities have spread and been redeveloped. Attempts to control growth and suburban sprawl will also be covered. Topics range from grand ideas proposed by single individuals to smaller more incremental processes carried out through collaboration by a variety of contending parties. You will see how cities and suburbs have been changed in the past and how you and others may help change them in the future.

Lectures and discussions will be supplemented by videos, by field study, and by visits from guest speakers who will present cases involving recent projects that illustrate the scope and methods of urban design practice and theory.

Course Requirements

Work for the class will include extensive reading, two short written exercises, a longer final paper, and two exams (one in-class and the other a final). Approximately 30% of your grade will be based on the two shorter exercises, 30% on the exams, 30% on the quality of your final paper and 10% on class participation. It is essential that all reading be completed in advance of each class. There will be an occasional pop quiz on the day’s assigned readings. These quizzes will affect your class participation grade; if you don’t do the readings, you can’t participate in class discussion.


Two Short Written Exercises 30%
Two Exams (One In-class and the other a Final) 30%
Final Paper 30%
Class Participation 10%

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

notes Lecture Notes
assignment Written Assignments