11.337J / 4.247J
Urban Design Ideals & Action


Population growth, rural-urban migration, and urbanization continue to impact developing countries, but cities in much of the “Global North” (North America, Europe, and Northern Asia) face a different set of concerns. Deindustrialization, political shifts, and demographic slowdown are reducing urban populations, emptying housing stock, and changing the urban fabric. Increasingly, developed-world cities will face shrinkage rather than growth, a condition that demands dramatically new ideals and action from urban designers.

The Spring 2014 URBAN DESIGN IDEALS AND ACTION 11.337J/4.247J will examine urban design ideals and actions proposed for shrinking cities in the USA, Germany, and Russia. The USA and Germany are comparatively familiar to urbanists; Russia is less so. These three countries have the greatest number of shrinking cities, and each offers polemical and stimulating urban design conditions that are well worth exploring both in their own right and for the lessons that they offer urban design theory and action more broadly. 

Urban design issues that will be examined in the course include decentralization and suburbanization; housing design and abandonment; urban design’s link to governance and democracy; the legacy of Soviet planning; opportunities for informal action; and polemical urban design ideologies.

The course will operate as a seminar. Participants will read and discuss literature and projects relating to urban design and shrinking cities in all three countries; prepare presentations on different topics pertinent to the course; and write a short paper. Given its international, comparative focus, the course is intended to investigate both known and previously unknown or underexplored ideologies and outcomes in urban design. All literature reviewed will be in English; familiarity with other languages is not required.

The course has no prerequisites and is open to graduate students at any level in the School of Architecture and Planning. Interested undergraduates need permission of the instructor to enroll. A syllabus will be circulated prior to the beginning of the semester.

Interested students should contact Brent Ryan (bdr@mit.edu) for further details. 

NOTE: 11.337J/4.247J Urban Design Ideals and Action is distinct from 11.333J/4.244J Urban Design Seminar (Perspectives from Practice), also instructed by Professor Ryan.