Urban Design for Planners

Course Objectives
This seminar course introduces physical planners to the approaches, techniques and tools of urban design necessary to structure the spatial and dimensional relationships of the built environment. Through an individual, Boston-based project, students will be required to give spatial definition and form to an urban district through the elaboration of streets, block and building morphologies, open space networks and typologies, and urban design guidelines. This course complements the first year Core Urban Planning Studios by concentrating on the design of urban spaces – informed by but independent of – the demands of quantitative analysis, decision-making frameworks, economic forecasting or the specifics of plan implementation.
Students in this class will learn urban design strategies for integrating form and program into a framework for research, collaboration, and communication. Students will gain familiarity with the technical tools and representational techniques essential for planners to portray development scenarios.

The parameters for the site and program will be investigated at the outset of the course in order to begin with the investigation of urban form directly. The class will develop a spatial analysis of specific sites including but not limited to block patterns and parcelization, circulatory systems, open space characteristics, and relevant regulatory restrictions – easements, waterway setbacks, etc. Working individually, students will then create concept plans for specific interventions that will be elaborated throughout the remainder of the semester. The class will review urban design approaches for similarly scaled redevelopment projects, identifying relevant case studies from a range of urban design and planning practices. Students will develop their plans through the production of an urban design presentation board or boards that will include a street network plan, a public realm plan, a taxonomy of building types, three dimensional modeling of height and setback requirements and perspectival views conveying character. Techniques of representation will be customized by each student to align with their specific project approach in an acknowledgement of the relationship between representation and spatial or programmatic ideas.

The class will meet once per week, combining lectures, discussions and design reviews of individual students’ work. Grading will be based on successful completion of the urban design document described above. This course is primarily intended for first and second year planning students enrolled in the MUP program. Students outside this program may gain access to the class with permission from the instructor.