Fall 2020

ARC 327C (00715) ARC 391C (01130) LAR 388 (01635) CRP 386 (01405)

Taught as a web-based course.

A graduate seminar: focusing on the body of history and theory that informs contemporary issues in urban design. The course will examine the state of the contemporary discourse in urbanism, the historical trajectory of contemporary urban design theory, and its impact on design strategies as they pertain to the construction of the urban landscape. 20th Century case studies are introduced to contrast and compare design practice with the theoretical underpinnings of urban design discourse. While exploring the broader contexts of urban processes, the course also explores specific design strategies and devices established to negotiate competing social and spatial forces in the urban landscape.

The theoretical positions in architecture and urbanism that have emerged as a result of the expanding metropolitan landscape and the resultant geographical space of the open city have thrown urban design into crisis. As architecture strives to regain its cultural relevance, the ongoing discourse of the city provides a constructed ground for its participation. Professionals who are engaged in the formation of urban environments are ill equipped to confront the realities of the constantly transforming infrastructure and socio-political change. While acknowledging that there is no longer a singular pervasive theory of the city, the intention of this course is to open up for discussion, possibilities, and to postulate strategies for enabling an urban architecture to operate synthetically within this realm. We will accomplish this through an extensive set of readings that discuss the key issues arising throughout 20th century urban design theory and practice, and by examining the transformation to the present urban situation.

This course is required for students enrolled in The Graduate Program in Urban Design.


The class will be structured around lectures, tests, discussion sessions, and case study presentations. Students will be expected to be able to make connections between the ideas presented in the lectures and readings, and their impact on an increasingly urbanizing world, and the ways in which design can play a meditative role in the construction of the urban environment.

In particular, students should be able to:

  • Examine the competing paradigms and discourses informing contemporary urban design.
  • Develop a critical understanding of the tactical initiatives being implemented in contemporary urbanism and their antecedents.
  • Explore design strategies based on an understanding of the complexity of urban landscape structure.

In pedagogical terms, the ultimate objective is to expand our knowledge and to intensify one’s critical abilities in evaluating and discussing design tactics for an urban architecture grounded in the history of disciplinary knowledge.