Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

What is a city? What shapes it? How does its history influence future development? How do physical form and institutions vary from city to city and how are these differences significant? How are cities changing and what is their future? This course will explore these and other questions, with emphasis upon twentieth-century American cities. A major focus will be on the physical form of cities - from downtown and inner-city to suburb and edge city - and the processes that shape them.

Cities are constantly built and rebuilt; from the initial settlement to the present, successive layers leave traces. There are also cities within cities; every city has many districts-downtown, neighborhoods, suburbs, each evolving with its own history, institutions, successive populations, and urban form. The result is a richly complex text of artifacts: from houses to schools and banks, playgrounds to parks and plazas, alleys to boulevards, sewers to freeways. These provide clues to the environmental, social, and political context in which they were built and to the people who built them, their needs and desires. Armed with an understanding of places built in the past, we will turn to a reading of contemporary urban settlements. What do the cities being built today reveal about the values societies and individuals hold or reject?

We will explore these issues through lectures, readings, and analysis of particular places. Boston will provide a primary text. A project involving short field assignments will provide further opportunity to use, develop, and refine new skills in "reading" the city. The course will take advantage of opportunities afforded by the Internet. The syllabus, a gallery, and other links will be posted on the World-Wide Web. Students will present their projects online with links to the course Web site. These student Web sites, along with weekly readings, will provide material for class discussion.

This is a HASS-CI class, which offers students opportunity for verbal and graphic expression through class discussion, written texts, and Web site design. Communication-intensive subjects in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences require at least twenty pages of writing divided among three to five assignments; at least one must be revised and resubmitted.

The class is limited to twenty-five students.


Work for the course will be evaluated in three ways: a project consisting of four parts (60% of the final grade), a weekly journal (20%), and class participation (20%).

Project (Consisting of Four Parts) 60%
Weekly Journal 20%
Class Participation 20%