Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Overview

This class serves as an introduction to methods of analyzing, evaluating and recording the urban environment based on field observation. The aim is to supplement existing courses which cover theory and history of city design and planning, and to better prepare students without prior design background for the studio sequence. The course will build skills fundamental to undertaking a wide variety of urban design efforts, including for example: design of streets and public places, shaping neighborhood form and function, and incorporating natural systems into the urban fabric.

Through visual observation, field analysis, measurements, interviews, and other means, students will learn to draw on their senses and develop their ability to deduce, question, and test conclusions about how the environment is used and valued. Through the use of representation tools (drawing, photography, computer modeling and graphics), students will communicate their observations as well as their impressions and ideas.

Course Requirements

The course is organized in a workshop/field survey format, supplemented by lectures and evening skill-developing sessions. Work for the class includes class participation/discussion including attending field visits, keeping a sketchbook which will be submitted (at midterm and final) and completing required assignments. Approximately 1/4 of your grade will be for class involvement [comprised of attendance/discussions (15%) and the sketchbook (10%)] and 3/4 of your grade will be for completing three assignments (20%, 20% and 35% respectively). Students are expected to complete short readings in advance of field trips and lectures, in order to better prepare themselves for the topics covered.

Suggested Materials

  1. Sketchbook (bound) - roughly 9" x 12"
  2. Black 'Sharpie' markers (different widths)
  3. Lead Holder and leads (F and H and a couple of non-print blue)
  4. 'Pilot' pens (different widths)
  5. Drafting dots (partner up and share these)
  6. 'Prisma' color pencils and markers
  7. Roll of yellow trace paper (minimum 24" width)
  8. T-square
  9. Triangles, one should be adjustable (best with 'bumps')
  10. Engineering scale and architectural scale (foot/inch)
  11. Eraser

The following topics will be studied through the cases:

  • Site and natural systems
  • Public spaces and place making
  • Infrastructure transportation and circulation
  • Built-up typologies -- single and mixed use -- infill

Themes To Be Explored

  1. Observing and interpreting the urban environment. Methods of studying a place by walking and observing, by carrying out urban field surveys and other modes of inquiry. How to best observe, diagnose, understand and gather clues from the built environment. How to piece together clues that tell the history and dynamics of a place, when it was built and for whom. We will also study what are the physical and sensory indicators of economic and social change, trends, problems, the notion of vulnerability, and policy and guideline issues.
  2. Ways to evaluate the plural structure of the built environment, the perception, values, and behavior of planning and design professionals, public officials, clients, media, and the different users.
  3. Understanding the physical structure of the city - the scale, pattern and form of blocks, streets, districts, public spaces, infrastructure, and nature.
  4. Techniques of recording, representing, and communicating what is observed. Learning the basic graphic language of analysis and design through the use of representation of tools such as: drawing, photographing, computer modeling and graphics.