Structuring Urban Experience: From the Athenian Acropolis to the Boston Common

This lecture course examines selected cities between the fifth century B.C. and the seventeenth century A.D., beginning with ancient Athens and ending with the rebuilding of London after the great fire in 1666 and the founding of Boston. It is not, however, a survey. Rather, the lectures take up one city at one “golden moment” of its development and propose a theme or themes for discussion. The course, therefore, is both chronologically and thematically structured.

The first half of the semester treats the ancient and late antique city, beginning with Athens and continuing with Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople and Antioch. This section concludes with a consideration of the effects of Christianization on urban form, the widespread decline of urban habitation in the early Middle Ages, and the rising importance of ideal or symbolic “cities of the mind.” The second half of the semester looks at selected instances of Renaissance and Baroque urban interventions, beginning with Florence, returning again to Rome, and then moving to Venice, Madrid, Paris, London and Boston.