11.301J | Fall 2016 | Graduate

Introduction to Urban Design and Development



Introduction, Course Structure and Objectives

Can cities be designed?

Part 1: Forces That Shape Cities

Viewpoints On the City

How are cities understood? City themes and city culture, ways of representing cities. The idea of imaging a city from the viewpoint of its inhabitants: Kevin Lynch. Regeneration of Lowell, MA.

Assignment 1 handed out


The Forces That Made Boston

How does a city grow? The city viewed as a process of cultural and physical evolution. How underlying forces are given form through design.


Walking Tour of Boston

Required field trip: Meet at the Prudential Center Observatory lobby. Tour concludes in the North End for lunch.


Economic Forces and Urban Form

The city viewed as a business. Land use, land value, and urban development. Understanding how uses are located: the bid rent curve; cities as central places. Functional patterns of market and form. From the walkable city to edge city.


Social Foces and Urban Form

The city form the viewpoint of communities and their residents. Interrelationships of neighborhoods, class association and form. Public housing, Hope VI, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Boston.

Identify location for Assignment 1


State Forces and Urban Form

The city viewed by those in power. Eminent domain. Public development and its arenas: infrastructure, redeveloment, and housing. How is public development financed and carried out? City design as a political endeavor: from Paris, New York, and New London.


Recitation Session, Assignment 1: Urban Change

Research methods and topic development. How do you document urban change over time, and into the future? What resources are available? Using graphics to support an argument. References and citations. Attendance strongly recommended.


City Making I: Planning the Formal City

Land allocation, use, and regulation of private development: zoning and incentives to influence what the market provides. Evolution of land use control to shape the “good” city and protect scares resources. Examples: New York and Sao Paulo.


Case Study: Private Development and Public Benefits

Guest: Kairos Shen, former Planning Director, City of Boston

The city is made largely by individual private development and projects, working within a framework of zonging and other regulations. Are these regulations sufficient to protect the public interest? What additional public benefits can the city expect developers to provide? Examples of projects and controversies in Boston.


City Making II: Non-Planning the Informal City

Guest: Dr. Jota Samper

Informal settlements amke up one-third of the world’s urban population. What is this form of urbanization? How can design affect security and regeneration of these neighborhoods? Examples: Medellin and Rio de Janeiro.


City Making III: Public-Private Partnerships

The entreprenurial viewpoint. Joining public and private interests. Revitalizing downtowns and neighborhoods with new incentives, formulas for development, and types of projects. Examples: Vancouver.


Recitation Session

Discussion will focus on the readings. Please submit a journal reflection on the readings thus far. Questions to consider: can you design places without designing buildings? Which tools of urban designs have shaped the place you are examining for the first assignment? Required session.


Field Visit: Boston Redevelopment Authority

Host: Prataap Patrose


Meet at BRA offices, Boston City Hall.



City Making IV: The Design and Development Process

Design as a tool of analysis, synthesis and decision-making. The importance of urban visions and who makes them. The development process: how is good design achieved?


Discussion of Exercise 1, Student Presentations

Assignment 1 due

Part 2: Models of City-Making

Values of Contemporary Urbanism

Urban design as a cultural language. Recurring themes: public and private; machine and nature; density and dispersion; local culture and global; the rich and the poor. Recurring elements: neighborhoods, production spaces, markets, streets, public spaces, transport spaces, and symbols. Class discussion on form, human behavior, and value systems.

Assignment 2 handed out



The grid and the line. The confluence of culture, geography, and form: Colonial towns in New England and Georgia, and their legacy. Neo-traditionalism: Poundbury, and British new town design.


The Art of Placemaking

Symbolic places and form. From Baroque Rome to the Chicago and Worlds Columbian Expositions: City Beautiful and its continuing impact. Contemporary art of creative place-making: Georgy Kepes, Otto Piene, and CAVES at MIT.


WaterFire, Walking Tour of Providence, R.I.

Host: Barnaby Evans, artist, creator, and producer of WaterFire.


Case Study: Making a 21st Century Public Realm

Guest: Barnaby Evans, artist, creator, and producer of WaterFire


Case Study: Mid-Century Modern City

Guest: Professor Hashim Sarkis, Dean of the School of Arcitecture and Planning at MIT

The architecture of urban design: Set, Neutra, and the ongoing legacy of Latin American urbanism.


The Efficient City

The city as a mechanism for production. The utopian industrial city: from Pullman to the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Impacts on urban development policy: public housing, highways, and urban renewal. The outcome in China: a city for 130 million people.


Case Study: Green Development

Guest: Bill Browning, CEO, Terrapin Bright Green


The City in Nature

How do ideas of nature influence the way cities are perceived and built? How natural processes and urban form interact. The search for a green, sustainable city. The Garden City, new town, and ecocity models. The contemporary urbanist (density) vs. ecologist (sprawl) debate.


The Secure City

Public safety vs. private safety. Impact of security on urban design. Debates on gated communities in Latin America, Asia, Middle East, and North America.


Recitation Session

Please submit a journal (any length) reflecting on the readings in the second half of the course. Questions to consider: What planning strategies/tools could be employed to reshape the city or suburbs? What strategies/tools of change are in the plan you are studying? Required session.


Experience City

Experience development as a force in urban design. Narrative places. The engagement of information and media in urban form. Disney World to Dubai.


Productive Neighborhoods

Putting a “nervous system” into the city, and its effects on human behavior, activities and form. Smart urban systems that are sensed, continuously analyzed, and can incrementally respond over time. Stochastic as opposed to visionary urban design. Implications for theory and future practice: Rise of Innovation Districts: Seoul, Spain, Guadalajara, Mexico.


The Good City

Reconciling ideals and the real. Discussion of languages of urban design and development, and their applicability in practice. Whose values should the city reflect?

Student Panel Session


Wrap Up, Discussion of Assignment 2

Assignment 2 due

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2016
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments