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The first half of the course will explore the mutual influences of ideas of nature, theories of city design and planning, and practices of urban design, construction, and management. We will investigate how natural processes shape urban landscapes (from the scale of street corner to region) and how to intervene strategically in those processes in order to achieve certain goals. We will examine cases of cities that adapted successfully to natural processes and those that did not. Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New Orleans will each be the focus of a class session; cases from other cities will also be reviewed. Readings are drawn from diverse literatures, including environmental history, science, engineering, planning, and professional planning documents.

The second half of the course will provide students with the opportunity to research a case of their choice and to present their findings for discussion. The subject may be historical or an example of contemporary theory and practice; it may relate closely to a student's thesis. The choice of case and topic will be made and developed in consultation with the instructor. A paper is required. Students will also keep a weekly journal of reflections on readings and class discussions.


Student work will be evaluated in four ways: class attendance and contribution to discussions; the weekly journal submitted via email; a presentation and final paper.

Class Attendance and Contribution to Discussions 30%
The Weekly Journal 30%
A Presentation and Final Paper 40%