Urban Form: History + Theory

The course is historical and theoretical. It is concerned with the economic, social, and political factors that shape urban processes and environments and the efforts of individual actors, interventions, conceptual models, and practices to comprehend, gain control over, regulate, and reshape those processes and environments.

The time span is from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 21st century. The focus is on Europe and North America, and the dialogic relationship between urban planning and urban design and the technological, institutional, political, and cultural contexts in which they operate.

The emphasis of this critical history is on strategy, agency, and actors; on formal aspiration, authored intervention, and the production, instrumentation, and transfer of a form of knowledge and set of practices that are urban and architectural. This knowledge also includes ways in which the city has been perceived, imagined, represented and projected into the future; the aspirations built and unbuilt of a range of urban actors, and the multiplicity of logics that underlie the forms themselves.

The course is organized historically in terms of episodes in which projects or sets of projects (theoretical and material) effect paradigmatic shifts in the conception of the city and its critical operations.

Topics include: industrialization and urbanization (London, Manchester); 19th century paradigms (Paris, Vienna, Barcelona); Garden City; planned metropolis (Vienna, Berlin, New York); modernist highrise city and ‘Americanism’; Red Vienna, New Berlin, and New Frankfurt in the 1920s; Fordism and superblock, megastructure and mat building in the 1950s and 60s; The Ideal Communist City; Las Vegas Strip and pop landscape; sprawl + communication in the 1960s; Type, Collage, Ecology (Rossi, Rowe, Banham) in the 1970s and ‘80s; postfordism + postsocialism; the multiple scales of globalization; complexity, temporality, hybridity as conditions and strategies since 2000.

Requirements/assignments: Aside from active participation in class discussions, students will be required to submit a weekly 1-page response paper on assigned readings, to be handed in at the beginning of each class. A final research paper (8-10 pp.) on a topic related to the course is required of each student.