HISP 324: Urban Design

Course Outline

Situated at the intersection of architecture and city planning, urban design is both a process and a practical approach to improve the quality of built environments. Good urban design aspires to shape city form by focusing on the complex relationships between built and unbuilt space and by facilitating the creation of built environments that are both sensitive to context and to people’s needs. As Jonathan Barnett puts it, urban design is about “designing cities without designing buildings”. Urban designers use their rich contextual knowledge about the dynamic nature of city development and their active skills in observing, interpreting, and recording transformations of the built environment in order to support good design at a variety of spatial scales. This course is designed to supplement existing courses that cover history and theory of urban planning and to better prepare students without prior design training for the studio experience.

Required Texts

Bacon, Edmund D. Design of Cities. Penguin: 1976.

Larice, Michael and Macdonald, Elizabeth (Eds.) The Urban Design Reader. Routledge: 2006.

Course Requirements

Graded Course Requirements Due Date Weight
Class Participation All Semester 15%
Midterm Exam Oct 7 (Mon) 20%
Description & Critique Oct 28 (Wed) 15%
In-Class Exercises Oct 26, Nov 2 & 9 15%
Presentation Nov 30 & Dec 2 15%
Design Project Dec 9 (Tues) 20%

Course Policies

Course Schedule

WEEK 1
M 8/24Course Introduction
W 8/26The Elements of Urban Design
WEEK 2
M 8/31Reading the Built Environment 
Reading: Design of Cities, pages 13-41
W 9/2Ancient Cities 
Reading: The Growth of Greek Cities &
Design Order of Ancient Rome
in Design of Cities
WEEK 3
M 9/7Medieval Patterns 
Reading: Medieval Design in Design of Cities
W 9/9The Baroque 
Reading: Upsurge of the Renaissance & Development of Paris
in Design of Cities
WEEK 4
M 9/14Utopian Cities 
Reading: Town Planning in Frontier America, pages 276-290
W 9/16The Picturesque 
Reading: Pages 182-185 & John Nash and London
in Design of Cities
WEEK 5
M 9/21The Progressives 
Reading: The Neighborhood Unit
in The Urban Design Reader
W 9/23Modern Developments 
Reading: Toward an Urban Design Manifesto
in The Urban Design Reader
WEEK 6
M 9/28Total/all-of-a-piece/piece-by-piece/plug-in Design 
Reading: Urban Design, Chapter 2
W 9/30Community/Public Occupancy 
Reading: Three Types of Outdoor Activities
and Life Between Buildings and Neighborhood Space
in The Urban Design Reader
WEEK 7
M 10/5Personal/Defensible Space & Exam Review
W 10/7Midterm Exam
WEEK 8
M 10/12Describing a Street/Introduction to Assignment 1
W 10/14Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
WEEK 9
M 10/19Streets/Plazas
W 10/21Civic Art + Landscapes
WEEK 10
M 10/26Identity (dominance, positive/negative space, static/dynamic,
articulated, civic/monumental space)
W 10/28Identity Debrief
WEEK 11
M 11/2Composition (axial focus, central focus, family of forms,
hierarchical ordering, structure)
W 11/4Composition Debrief
WEEK 12
M 11/9Sequences (mystery, unfolding, arrival, succession, transition)
W 11/11Sequence Debrief
WEEK 13
M 11/16Concerns in Urban Design
W 11/18Urban Design into the Future
WEEK 14
M 11/23NO CLASS – THANKSGIVING
W 11/25NO CLASS – THANKSGIVING
WEEK 15
M 11/30Design Project Presentations
W 12/2Design Project Presentations
WEEK 16
W 12/9Design Project Due

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