History and Theory of Urban Interventions

This course uses historical and analytical readings and case studies to address several major theoretical questions concerning the aims and outcomes of urban interventions. The overall theme is the relationship at a given historical moment between conscious public policy and the spatial, economic, social, and political framework in which it operates and which it affects. To what extent are planning, design, and policy simply the resultant of social forces and to what degree do they shape those forces? Where do planners and policy makers derive their goals? What is the relationship between the goal-setting process, the quality of policy, and the character of cities and regions? What are the values that should govern practice? How can planners enhance their control over social outputs, and, in turn, by what mechanisms should the public control them? Who benefits from urban and regional planning? What is the relationship between race and gender and urban outcomes?

Topics include: the history of urban planning and its relationship with the history of urban development; a comparison of American, European, and Asian examples of urban interventions; development theory; social construction; neoliberalism; cities and social inequality; technological possibilities; and environmental quality.

The course is of general relevance to anyone entering the design and planning professions or interested in urban studies as well as to doctoral students in these fields. It connects theories, histories, and debates about planning to contemporary urban transformations and to the challenges presented by emergent urban problems, crises, and struggles.

The course aims at helping students build critical capacities for understanding and contributing to efforts to shape and reshape urban life through the professional methods and ethics of the planning, design, and policy disciplines through research, scholarship, and political participation.

Course format:

The course will be a mix of lecture and discussion. In addition to the lectures, there will be required section meetings every two weeks. Written work consists of two short and two longer papers.

Prerequisites: None.