4.241J | Spring 2013 | Graduate

Theory of City Form

Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 4.241J/11.330J Theory of City Form as it was taught by Prof. Julian Beinart in Spring 2013.

This course that has been offered every year at MIT since 1956. First developed and taught by Prof. Kevin Lynch, the course was then adopted by Prof. Beinart, who has taught the course for the past 36 years. This advanced-level course is intended to present various theories of city form, along with appropriate case studies, in order to build students’ understanding of urbanism and architecture and to enable them to apply such considerations in future practices.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • To explore in depth the history and development of city form by building upon foundational knowledge from previous coursework and examining multiple case studies
  • To draw connections between urbanism and architecture, as well as historical, social, and economic influences
  • To formulate one’s own perspective on and understanding of city form, and to be confident in incorporating these into professional practice

Possibilities for Further Study/Careers

Students are expected to continue their work in architecture and urban studies. Many of the graduate students already possess a professional background in these fields of study.

Instructor Interview

Professor sitting in his office.

Prof. Beinart in his office, surrounded by materials from both teaching and practice. (Image courtesy of MIT OpenCourseWare.)

In the following pages, Prof. Beinart describes various aspects of how he teaches 4.241J/11.330J Theory of City Form.

Below are links to videos produced by Prof. Lynch as part of his studies into the theory of city form and of human perceptions of the city.

Curriculum Information


Requirements Satisfied

  • H-Level Graduate Credit
  • Required for SMArchS


Every spring semester

Student Information


30 students

Breakdown by Degree Program

1/3 Master of Architecture, 1/3 Master of Science in Architectural Studies, 1/3 other graduate programs

Breakdown by Major

2/3 from Department of Architecture, 1/3 from Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Typical Student Background

Students possess varying academic backgrounds and work experience, but share common knowledge in urbanism. The class demographic, on occasion, includes undergraduates, cross-registered students, and visiting scholars.

Ideal Class Size

Because the course is lecture-based, class size is not restricted. In the past, enrollment has ranged from 25 to 50 students.

How Student Time Was Spent

Students had the option of enrolling in this class for either 9 or 12 credits. Those enrolled for 12 units were expected to spend more time working on their term paper outside of class. During an average week, students were expected to spend either 9 or 12 hours on the course, dependent on the number of units enrolled, roughly divided as follows:


  • Two 1.5-hour lectures per week; 26 class sessions total
  • Lectures include an hour of the professor’s discourse, followed by showing of slides.
  • Slides include visual examples demonstrating the discussed theories and case studies.

Out of Class

  • Readings in preparation for class sessions
  • Term paper (length and topic dependent upon number of units enrolled)

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2013
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Videos
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments with Examples
Instructor Insights