11.016J | Spring 2015 | Undergraduate

The Once and Future City


Assignments Overview


Each student is required to keep a journal throughout the semester, submitted in weekly installments. The journal is a place to record observations of individual sites and reflections on readings, lectures, and class discussions. It also serves as a source of ideas and written material for the more formal assignments. Although the writing may be more informal than a polished paper, it should be clear and coherent, without errors of grammar or spelling. Length may vary, but each entry should be at least 250 words.

Each journal must address the required reading and apply it to understanding and explaining phenomena observed on your own site: Aspects of the site’s urban form that inspired you to select it; natural processes taking place there; changes over time; traces and trends.

From time to time during the semester, we will discuss the role of journals and writing as a form of inquiry.

Start the journal right away. The first journal is due by class 2.

Note: Journals represent 20% of your final grade.

Project Assignment: Investigating a Site in the Past or Present Neighborhoods of MIT

The city itself provides a text richer than any other you will read this semester. Using old maps, prints, and photographs, but primarily your own eyes and mind, you will have the opportunity to apply the knowledge gained in the course to “reading” a site of your choosing. This semester-long project will be due in four parts; the assignments vary in length from two to eight pages, a total of approximately twenty-six pages. One of the assignments must be revised and resubmitted.

In 2016, MIT will celebrate the hundredth anniversary of its move from Boston’s Back Bay to the current location in Cambridge. To honor that occasion, this year the class will focus on MIT’s former and current neighborhoods, and students will select sites within designated boundaries. Comparing all the sites will enable us to study the effect of the university on the community around it and vice versa.

The assignments should be posted to your website. For a more detailed description of each assignment, click on the titles below.

Assignment 1: Select A Site

Describe your site and reflect on why it interests you. What questions does the place raise for which you hope to find answers this semester? The text should be about 600 words (approximately two typed pages), accompanied by a map that identifies the boundaries of the site.

Assignment 2: Your Site and Natural Processes

Find evidence on your site of its environmental history and ongoing natural processes. The objective of this assignment is to discover how natural processes shape cities over time. The text should be equivalent to about 2400 words (approximately eight typed pages double-spaced), accompanied by illustrations.

Assignment 3: Your Site Through Time

Trace changes over time on your site by comparing its character at several points in time, using different types of sources. What changes do you find? How would you characterize them? Are the changes gradual or do they seem to happen suddenly? Do changes within a time period seem related? How about from one time to another? Can you find patterns in the changes? What might explain the changes you found? Were they merely an outcome of actions by individuals or do they reflect broader forces (social, cultural, political, economic, or natural processes and conditions at local, regional, national, or global scales; policies; events; technological changes)? The text should be equivalent to about 2400 words (approximately eight typed pages), accompanied by illustrations.

Walking around your site, what clues can you find to past, current, and potential future uses and residents? What different kinds of traces can you find and what period and population of the site’s history do they belong to? What do they reveal about the past and the present? The objective of this assignment is to give an appreciation for how past owners, functions, events, and ways of life leave traces and to give experience in “reading” the site by learning to recognize these traces and work out the puzzles of their significance. The text should be equivalent to about 2400 words (approximately eight typed pages), accompanied by illustrations.

Assignment Revision (PDF)

Choose an essay to revise. You will probably want to revise an essay that you can see needs obvious improvement. The assignment revision is a requirement of CI-H courses.


Grading Criteria (PDF)

Citation Guide (PDF)

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2015
Learning Resource Types
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