The seminar is constructed as a debate among the ideas of four urban thinkers whose influential contributions to the discourse of the modern city were shaped by their divergent responses to New York City’s urban and architectural development: Lewis Mumford (1895–1990), Robert Moses (1888–1981), Jane Jacobs (1916–2006), and Rem Koolhaas (1944–). In counterposing their respective arguments, the seminar addresses issues of civic representation and environmentalism, infrastructure development and urban renewal policy, community and complexity, and the role of architecture in the urban imaginary. The focus is twofold: on the contribution of the “urban intellectual” to the making of culture; and on New York’s architectural and urban history. New York has been called the capital of the twentieth century. By reassessing the legacy and agency of these visionary thinkers, the seminar not only reflects on New York’s evolution over the course of the last century but raises questions about the future of cities in the twenty-first century. A selection of historical and theoretical material complements seminal readings by the four protagonists. Each student is responsible for making two case-study presentations and producing a thematically related term paper. Limited enrollment.

All Semesters

Spring 2021
New York as Incubator of Twentieth-Century Urbanism: Four Urban Thinkers and the City They Envisioned 
Joan Ockman