11.332J | Fall 2003 | Graduate

Urban Design


Part 1: Double Readings

a) Life & Learning

Each student will select (or be assigned) two of the following readings and write a one-page summary for each. The summary should identify the interests of the various stakeholders. Further, students should identify what characteristics (social, academic or, where applicable, physical) these stakeholders consider important for future growth in and around the MIT campus. Students should understand potential conflicts and think about potential remedies.

  1. Simha, Robert O. MIT Planning 1960-2000: An Annotated Chronology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Office of the Executive Vice President, 2001. Rotch Library. T171.M423.S56 2001.
  2. Report of the Presidential Task Force on Student Life & Learning: Task Force on Student Life and Learning.
  3. Roberts, Jeffrey C. “Is MIT a Good Place to Live? The University Campus as a Residential Environment.” MCP Thesis (MIT, 2003). To be distributed.
  4. Williams, Rosalind H. Retooling: A Historian Confronts Technological Change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002. Humanities Library. T173.8.W55 2002.

Two one-page summaries of each reading

Due Date: Class #4

b) Campus Form

Each pair of students will select (or be assigned) two of the following Boston-area campuses and study their built form. Teams are asked to analyze each campus according to nine categories, as described in the Assignment handout: land uses, blocks and parcels, streets, open spaces, edges/entries, building types, architectural implications, parking and transportation. Each pair will produce a matrix for each campus, with life & learning characteristics along the horizontal axis and built form characteristics along the vertical axis. Which life & learning characteristics can be influenced by built form and vice versa - and which ones cannot?

  1. Harvard University - Cambridge Campus
  2. Harvard University - Boston Campus
  3. Northeastern University
  4. Boston University
  5. Suffolk University
  6. Boston College

Characteristics Matrix 
Photo survey of campuses 
Sketch analytical drawings of the 9 categories:

  1. Land Use Plan (colored) - 1:2500
  2. Block types, showing parcels, dimensions (plan) - 1:500
  3. Street types, showing dimensions (sections) - 1:500
  4. Open Space Diagram (b/w with major spaces rendered) - 1:2500
  5. Entry/Edge Diagram (thick lines for edges, dots for entries) - 1:2500
  6. Building Types - sketch diagrammatic axos and outline plans - as required
  7. Architecture - detail photos of materials, diagrams of openings, ground level
  8. Parking Plan (b/w with parking facilities rendered) - 1:2500
  9. Transportation (b/w with transit nodes located and walking distances) - 1:2500

Review: Class #8

Part 2: Individual Brainstorming

Based on the discussions about life & learning as well as built form characteristics, each student will study the MIT project area and devise a strategy for its future development. Students should indicate how the various stakeholder concerns will be addressed (or not be addressed and why, if applicable). To that end, students should consider which qualities of place are essential, which are desirable, and which are undesirable. Proposals should indicate what built form characteristics they think would support their ideas - ideas about the nine surveyed built form characteristics should be addressed in the proposal.

Context Plan - 1:2500 
Overall Plan - 1:1000 
Conceptual Model (plasticene) 
Description of Strategy (one-paragraph)

Pin-up: Class #12

Part 3: Detailed Development of Proposal

a) Basic Anatomy (the Overall Scale) - Conceptual Plan/Open Spaces/Uses

After reviewing the individual brainstorming proposals, the professors will form teams of three students, grouping students with similar approaches while ensuring a balanced team of planners and architects. Groups spend the next seven (7) weeks developing a detailed proposal. The first three (3) weeks will be dedicated to the basic anatomy of the proposal - the overall plan, with open spaces and some idea of the mix and relative quantity of uses. Groups must address the specific site conditions, including how to deal with crossing the railway alignment. Although detailed drawings of blocks and streets will be developed later, teams will need to consider the dimensions of these plan components in their overall plan. Groups should think about the timeline/phasing of development and include assumptions about how MIT how grow over time. Groups should think about how stakeholder concerns are addressed and design a potential community consensus building process.

Existing Context Plan - 1:5000 
Existing Project Plan - 1:2500 
Proposed Context Plan - 1:5000 
Proposed Project Plan - 1:2500 
Phasing Plans (4) - 1:5000 
Description of strategy/consensus building process (2 pages) 
Diagrams (civic structure, transit, use, etc)

Pin-up: Class #20

b) Plan Components (the Block scale) - Streets/Blocks/Parcels

Once the overall plan has been more or less agreed upon, groups will spend two (2) weeks developing a more detailed design of streets, blocks, parcels and open spaces at a larger scale. Groups should develop a series of typologies of these plan components, illustrating the size and type of blocks, streets and development parcels. Groups are expected to produce illustrative drawings of potential streetscapes and major public (or open) spaces in order to convey the character of future development. Teams will be asked to examine a portion of their overall plan in greater detail to explore the components that comprise it more carefully.

Street Typologies (3 most typ.) - 1:500 
Block Typologies, including parcels (3 most typ.) - 1:500 
Blown-up portion plan (incl. major open space) - 1:1000 
Perspective views of open space (1) & streetscapes (2)

Pin-up: Class #26

c) Guiding Principles (the Parcel Scale) - Building Typologies/Design Guidelines

Having decided upon an overall plan with detailed street and block designs, groups will be asked to think about what guidelines should exist for the area. Generally, they fall into two categories: urban guidelines and architectural guidelines - largely these are the constraints that exist at the level of the parcel. Teams will be asked to think about such urban guidelines as: building heights, setbacks/stepbacks, coverage, etc and such architectural guidelines as: fenestration, ground level treatment, materials, etc. In order to understand whether the parcel sizes and guidelines are feasible for urban housing, teams will be asked to develop a generic plan for one parcel in their blown-up plan, showing layout of units, circulation and how parking is addressed. In developing one parcel, students begin to think about what building typologies work with their proposed schemes.

Street Typologies (3 most typ.) - 1:500 
Block Typologies, including parcels (3 most typ.) - 1:500 
Major public/open space plan (most important) - 1:1000 
Perspective views of open space (1) & streetscapes (2) 
Urban Design Guidelines (illustrative diagrams) - as required 
Architectural Guidelines (illustrative diagrams) - as required

Review: Class #31 (entire proposal)

Part 4: Test Outcomes

Having each developed a detailed proposal, teams will test the potential outcomes of the various strategies. Each group will ‘inherit’ a strategy/proposal/set of design guidelines from another team and will be asked to ’test’ the potential outcome from the proposal. Acting as a developer, teams will be asked to design a building façade based on the guidelines, the generic housing type plan and proposed parcel dimensions. Next, students will collage their façade with other (existing) façades to produce an illustrative street elevation. The goal is to test the limits of the guidelines. Teams will also be asked to produce a generic pro-forma in order to illustrate the financial feasibility of the development of the chosen parcel, given the constraints of the scheme. Costs and revenues will be calculated based on current market data.

Building façade - 1:100 
Illustrative Street Elevation - 1:1000 
Pro-Forma Analysis

Review: Class #35


Deliverables from Parts 1-4 will be re-formatted and packaged into a 8-1/2" x 11" (landscape) format and published as a Studio Book. A template in Adobe® InDesign will be provided.

All previous work, formatted on 8-1/2" x 11" InDesign Template.

Pinup: Class #39

Final Review

Between the layout pinup and the final review, students will be expected to format and print their work on four (4) 30" x 40" panels in preparation for a final review, with outside critics.

All previous work, formatted on 30" x 40" panels.

Review: 4 days after Class #40

‘Reading the Campus’: Built Form

Note: Base Maps will be provided to each team.

a) Overview

One group of students in the studio will study the MIT context and stakeholder desires to shed light on what characteristics of campus life are desirable to support a high quality-of-life. Another group of students will study the physical environment of existing Boston-area university campuses, quantifying the range of built form characteristics that exist. We will debate these two ‘readings’ of university life and attempt to identify the characteristics where the two intersect - that is, which quality-of-life characteristics can be addressed through urban design and which cannot. We will seek to understand the association between desires, potential characteristics and outcomes.

b) Your objective

To analyze the built form characteristics of a Boston-area university campus in order to understand how the physical environment does or does not support desirable quality-of-life characteristics.

c) Areas of Study

  1. Land Ownership 

    Questions: Does the amount and concentration of university-held land impact the intensity of activity in and around the campus? Is it desirable to have a mix of university and non-university properties? If so, to what degree? 

    Thinking Ahead: Is it desirable for MIT to consolidate or disperse future growth? What is a desirable mix of private development and MIT development? 


    1. Create black/white map showing university land holdings.
    2. Calculate what percentage the university owns.
  2. Land Uses 

    Questions: Does the amount and concentration of various land uses impact the intensity of activity in and around the campus? Is a mix of uses desirable? If so, in what rough proportions? What types of uses contribute to a higher quality-of-life? What non-academic amenities are desirable? 

    Thinking Ahead: What uses are desirable for future growth in and around the MIT campus? How should these uses be encouraged? (zoning, incentives, performance attributes?) How much residential (MIT and non-MIT) is desirable? At what densities? 


    1. Create color map of the various land uses (color codes TBD).
    2. Calculate percentages of each land use.
    3. Estimate the residential density (people/acre).
  3. Blocks and Parcels 

    Questions: Does the scale of blocks and parcels impact the intensity of activity in and around the campus? Do smaller or larger blocks and/or parcels increase or decrease the opportunity for a mix of uses? 

    Thinking Ahead: What scale and variety of blocks and parcels is desirable for future land division in and around the MIT campus? 


    1. Create a line-drawing showing only the blocks and their land division (parcels).
    2. Create a drawing (plan) of the block types, showing rough dimensions.
    3. Calculate the average size parcel for each land use.
  4. Streets 

    Questions: What is the relationship between the campus and the surrounding area at different locations? Do different relationships impact the character of the streets? The campus? Are urban design controls (build-to lines, building height limits) useful, and if so, what should they be? 

    Thinking Ahead: How should future development in and around the MIT campus relate to the street network? How should new streets be designed or existing streets improved? Is it desirable to have ‘urban edges’ (i.e. buildings forming a wall to the street)? 


    1. Create drawings (plan/section) of the street types, showing rough dimensions.
    2. Create a drawing (plan) showing where ground-level retail exists.
    3. Take photos of the different street types.
  5. Open Spaces 

    Questions: Does the amount and scale of open space (including landscape) improve the quality-of-life in and around the university campus? When/where are green spaces desirable? When/where are hard spaces (i.e. plazas) desirable? 

    Thinking Ahead: How should future growth in and around the MIT campus deal with open space? What types and quantities of open space are desirable for MIT? For the community? 


    1. Create a shaded map showing green spaces and hard spaces (2 colors TBD).
    2. Illustrate the dimensions of these spaces.
    3. Calculate the percentage of each open space in the study area.
    4. Calculate what percentage of the space is defined by buildings.
    5. Make note of the uses and ground-level treatment surrounding the open spaces.
    6. Take photos of these open spaces.
  6. Edges/Entries 

    Questions: Is it desirable to have thresholds to the university campus? If so, where and at what intervals? If not, why not? 

    Thinking Ahead: Should the future growth of MIT’s campus define an edge to the city, or blend with the existing fabric? 


    1. Identify any clear thresholds between campus and the surrounding area.
    2. Illustrate the distances between such thresholds.
    3. Take photos of these thresholds.
  7. Building Types 

    Questions: What building typologies support what uses? What building types are most adaptable to future change? What building types support street-level activity? 

    Thinking Ahead: What building types are appropriate for future buildings in and around the MIT campus? 


    1. Diagram the prevalent building types (sketch 3D and plan - simplified).
    2. Take sample photos of these building types.
  8. Architectural Implications 

    Questions: Do certain materials support/take away from a campus identity? Is such an identity desirable? Is consistency of materials desirable? Does the amount of surface/openings impact the definition of the street edge? 

    Thinking Ahead: Are architectural guidelines desirable for future growth in and around the MIT campus? If so, what would they be? 


    1. Take sample photos of building materials (brick, wood, glass, concrete, etc)?
    2. Create a color-coded map illustrating the location, by prevalent material.
    3. Illustrate sample street facades (diagrams), showing % opening.
  9. Parking 

    Questions: How much parking is desirable? How much is needed? How is parking best achieved? (underground, at-grade, on-street, structured parking?) 

    Thinking Ahead: How should parking in the future growth of MIT’s campus be handled? What are the future parking needs? 


    1. Create a black/white map showing the location of parking facilities.
    2. Calculate the # of parking spaces/acre.
    3. Take photos of parking facilities.
  10. Transportation 

    Questions: Does access to public transportation improve the quality-of-life in and around the university campus? How far (time/distance) between transit nodes (T and bus stops)? How far between other nodes of activity in and around campus? 

    Thinking Ahead: How should future transportation schemes be thought about for the future growth of the MIT campus? 


    1. Identify transportation nodes (bus/T).
    2. Identify major points of activity in and around the campus.
    3. Identify travel time/distance to/from major points of activity and between transportation nodes and major points of activity.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2003
Learning Resource Types
assignment Written Assignments
assignment Design Assignments