Making the American City: Form and Society

This course examines major episodes in the history of American urban growth, design, and planning to understand the urgent social, environmental, and development issues of today.  

It traces the growth and elaboration of North American cities in four major periods of urban history from the early European settlement to the present, with an emphasis on the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Through the study of plans, physical projects, and material conditions, Making the American City investigates specific topics, such as the downtown; homes and housing; public parks and landscapes; planned communities and civic spaces; homes and housing; transportation systems; environmental threats and disasters; the provision of infrastructure; racial and ethnic settlement patterns; slums and ghettos; bohemias and art districts; urban renewal and revitalization; gentrification; public landscapes and spaces; and suburbia in all its diversity.

The objective of the course is to use history to inform the thinking and practice of contemporary designers, planners, and policy makers. Students enrolled in the course will gain a fundamental knowledge of the major events that have contributed to the form and character of modern American cities. The format of the course will be lectures and class discussions. The method of evaluation will be short student papers on projects or subjects chosen from different periods of the history of the American city.  There are no prerequisites.

This course is jointly listed with HKS as SUP 612.