Contemporary Urban Dynamics

Today in the United States, urbanization processes are multiple and contradictory. This course will describe and analyze a broad spectrum of emerging urban phenomena, ranging from master-planned suburban communities to deserted inner cities, from tourist downtowns to mega-malls. Difficult to fit into existing taxonomies of urban/suburban, planned/unplanned, or even positive/negative, these places challenge our conventional understandings of urbanism. This course, organized as a reading seminar, will map their dynamics, linking them both with larger economic, political, and social changes and with new design approaches. Since this investigation will necessarily draw on a variety of disciplines, types of information, and perspectives, another important focus will be on understanding and evaluating different models of interpretation. After a series of introductory lectures and discussions of basic readings, students will produce detailed case studies.