Urban Design for Planners

This seminar course will introduce physical planners to the approaches, techniques, and tools of urban design necessary to structure the spatial and dimensional relationships of the built environment. The morphology of the city – relationships of built form, circulatory systems, and open space – will be the primary subject of the course, as students will be required to give form to an urban district through the elaboration of street structures, block and building morphologies, open space networks and typologies, and urban design guidelines. This course complements the existing Physical Planning core sequence by concentrating on the design of urban spaces, informed by but independent from the concerns of quantitative analysis, decision-making frameworks, economic forecasting, or the specifics of project implementation. In addition to a familiarization with the conventions of urban design thinking and representation through the process of creating specific area plans, invention, innovation, and creativity will be required. The design agenda – spatial analysis, representation, and the proposal of new urban morphologies – will be paramount. methodologyThe parameters for the site and program will be clearly defined at the outset of the course in order to begin with the investigation of urban form directly. The first lecture will cover the relevant history and condition of the site, located in the South Boston Waterfront Planning area, as well as completed and on-going planning initiatives for this area. Site reconnaissance will include a guided field trip and meeting with the city planning agency to review the physical characteristics of the site and context, as well as the larger scale prospects for its redevelopment. Working together, the class well develop a spatial analysis of the site including but not limited to block patterns and parcelization, circulatory systems, open space characteristics, and relevant regulatory restrictions – easements, waterway setbacks, flight paths, etc. Working individually, students will then create spatial concept plans for the site that will be elaborated throughout the remainder of the course. We will review urban design approaches for similarly scaled redevelopment sites, identifying conceptual precedents from a range of urban design practices. Students will develop their plans through the production of a specific urban design document that will include a street network plan, a public realm plan, a taxonomy of building types, 3 dimensional modeling of height and setback requirements, and perspectival views conveying character. The general techniques of representation will be customized by each student to align with their specific project approach in an acknowledgment of the relationship between representational schema and spatial or programmatic ideas. structureThe class will meet twice a week, combining lectures, discussions, and a review of design techniques and individual students\' work. Grading will be based on their successful completion of the urban design plan document described above. This course is primarily intended for first and second year planning students enrolled in the MUP program. Students outside these programs may gain access to the class with permission from the instructor.