BRYN MAWR COLLEGE
Cities 250: Growth and Spatial Organization of the American City

Spring Semester 2002
MW 1:00 - 2:30, Thomas 110
Mr. Cohen [jcohen@brynmawr.edu]

ASSIGNMENTS:

Assignment A: Annotated Bibliography 1, due 23 Jan.
On Monday and in the syllabus there was some discussion about the approach we will take in this course toward the unplanned city, urban processes, and urban building types.

This first assignment is to try to identify some good readings through which to explore this topic. We mentioned a few methods in class: footnotes or references in related books or articles; browsing the right shelves in the library or bookstore; on-line searches in various contexts, with whatever search terms yield the right kind of results.

Try some of these methods or others to look for readings on this kind of approach to urban process in the course. Skim the most pertinent that you can put your hands on, and for the best of these create a one or two-page document with full bibliographical cites in a standard form (no publisher needed) for these pertinent ones, along with a sentence or two describing their scope. At the end you might also list promising ones that you couldn't put your hands on. For this exercise we can step outside the US for writings that directly approach these urban processes in cities anywhere from the middle ages onward.

Bring these to class on Wednesday on paper, and also on diskette as a MS Word document (as a .doc) or any other program (as an .rtf). It might be best to coordinate filenames in advance: make the first part "a1" [the number 1] followed by your initials and then .doc or .rtf, all in lower case. If you feel game, try posting them in the appropriate folder ("Assignment 1") in the "File Exchange" section of the class Blackboard website, using the button called "Communications" to get there. Due Wed, 23 Jan.

Assignment B: Research Project 1: Diagramming, due preliminarily 30 Jan, final 11 Feb.
Parts the City: A team exercise in observing and diagramming functional zones of the city, initially in annotated drawings and then posted on the web. Students should assemble in teams of two or three. Identify one member with some degree of above-average digital skill (to help teach the others, not to be delegated with the digital tasks).

We want to build a diagram of the functional parts and types of the city, basing it on observation and particularity. Here we'll use Philadelphia, and try to extrapolate from an observational "trench." Archaelogists often explore a site by cutting a trench that will traverse different conditions and help relate different structures and different phases of occupation. They observe remarkably subtle changes in deposit layers, discerning differences in soil textures and colors and kinds of finds within them. We'll do something similar.

Take a ride or long walk along a radial line moving toward or away from the city center, so that you cross what might be imagined as concentric zones. Try to observe subtle changes in types of use and types of buildings of kinds of realtion to the street and each other, even different patterns of form within given functions, like different kind of residence or commerce, differences as subtle as those you might find in soil colors in a trench, but typical differences (if that isn't an oxymoron).

Note your observations, and diagram some respective uses and types in terms of free-hand "Sanborn"-like map excerpts relating a few structures to each other and the street. Consult a map and find your precise routes, and try to account for the historical genesis of what you see. Try to extrapolate what you have observed about the zones and patterns that you see to a wider area, watching for the play of concentric zones and exceptions to that concentricity. Put this into a series of annotated map excerpts on paper by classtime on 29 Jan. After we share these with one another, we'll agree on a shared digital format for the web. We'll then scan diagrams and photos, insert the notes, and post these projects in a common format.

addendum by email, 24 Jan:
As to the URBAN DIAGRAMMING exercise, I'll scan a sample Sanborn-like image and post it for your reference, linked to the assignment. Just to help you conceptualize what you want to gather, I'm thinking of a few things: a) perhaps 3-5 Sanborn-like vignettes of different typical landscapes that you cross, b) some speculative discussion of when and how/who those served when first built/today, and c) some general map indicating the sites "sampled" amid the larger setting, and, d) as you consult maps, indications of where you might expect those types of landscapes that you "sanborned" to extend in zones -- as a more detailed, observation-based diagram of a part of the city, of the sort that we tried more abstractly and at a larger scale in class.

Assignment C: Reading Response 1: on gen'l bib, post by 6pm, 5 Feb.
Identify readings of particular pertinence to medieval and later urban process and unplanned form, whether articles in scholarly journals or compendia, chapters in books, or period sources. To find readings, look at postings of your classmates, at two new bibliographical grab-bags of articles and books that I'lve posted, or others that you find yourself.

Very briefly describe their scope and the author's intent or point. (These will be "harvested" and assembled into a general annotated bibliography.) After describing each of your 3-4 readings, add a few more paragraphs discussing these collectively. Respond thoughtfully to the ideas in these, contrasting them with each other, or discussing one or more in connection with views encountered elsewhere or thoughts of your own.

These are to be posted by 6pm the night before the class in which we will discuss them, in this class, taking place on 6 Feb. After you've posted yours, read those of at least four of your classmates, and be prepared to discuss theirs and yours in class.

addendum by email, 24 Jan:
As you look at possible readings for your first reading response exercise, look very selectively at your classmates' suggestions and my raw lists, posted in the same place, "graze" the shelves, and be adventurous in trying to identify things that promise to be right on topic.

Assignment D: Reading Response 2: on US cities, 1700-1900, post by 6pm, 12 Feb.
As with Assignment C, identify readings of particular pertinence on this topic, whether articles in scholarly journals or compendia, chapters in books, or period sources. Very briefly describe their scope and the author's intent or point. (These will be "harvested" and assembled into a general annotated bibliography.) After describing each of your 3-4 readings, add a few more paragraphs discussing these collectively. Respond thoughtfully to the ideas in these, contrasting them with each other, or discussing one or more in connection with views encountered elsewhere or thoughts of your own.

These are to be posted by 6pm the night before the class in which we will discuss them. After you've posted yours, read those of at least four of your classmates, and be prepared to discuss theirs and yours in class.

Assignment E: Reading Response 3: on urban vernaculars and types, post by 6pm, 19 Feb.
Instructions as in assignment D, but readings focused on topic above.

Assignment F: Annotated Bibliography 2: annotated biblio on assigned city, due 27 Feb.
A project focused on an individual city, assembling a selected bibliography regarding its evolving morphology, functional differentiation, and dominant types. On assigned cities, in pairs.

Assignment G: Research Project 2: on morphological dev, functional parts, dominant types over time in assigned city, post by 6pm, 26 Mar. Present to class, from website in 15-20 minutes in one of following class sessions, 27 Mar - 8 Apr. Respond to feedback and revise, post and hand in on paper by 10 April.
Each two-person team will focus on an individual city that will be assigned, and will build on the annotated bibliography from the previous assignment. The goal is to create a website and give a class presentation to:

a) tell the story of the city's evolving morphology, starting with the germ and advantage of the site, initial plan, and observing its general overall shaping over time, and, importantly, the forces / reasons behind that.

b) give your audience a more analytical sense of the different functional parts of the city within that general shape, and how those shifted over time. Observe, show, and account for such differentiation.

c) identify the key dominant types and textures of the city, focusing in on the typical in that city.

This is based on your reading and research, so be sure to observe the usual practices for a research paper regarding citing of sources and of images (and never give just a url). But also remember that you're conveying certain narratives to an audience and that you're trying to make it as effective in communicating your points as possible. Aim for a judicious weave of graphics and words, using illustrations well to make your points, but don't be seduced by the gee-whiz or pretty for its own sake. Focus on the key questions,whether your sources tend in those directions or not, and do your best with them.

This will be presented as a website and as a 15-20 minute class presentation, but involving speaking and the images more than having the class read what is on screen. After feedback from the class and instructor, review and revise the site. I'll look at it on screen to grade it, but print it out in its final form so that I can offer more detailed comments.

Assignment HI: Old assignments H and I will be joined into a mini-project for individual students, due 21 April:

Assignment H, the first part, will be Reading Response 4: on process and developers, with
instructions as in previous reading assignments, but with readings focused on the private formation of the piece of the city or suburb by the developer. From the overall and typical, we're now focusing in on the part, and the decisions associated with it, in our case by private interests. Do your best to find some good readings on this kind of place creation, and note the citations, but rather than writing it up as a reading response, use these as a foundation for the accompanying ...

Assignment I: Research Project 3: case study of a piece
A study focused on a part of the city or suburb, looking at the creation and evolution of a private development. Building on the insights provide by your readings, and comparing with them, give discuss the choices made by developers and consumers reflected in built form. Combine looking, questioning, research, and grounded speculation about the process of private development. Posit questions and address them as best you can, questions like: why was this an attractive specualtion?, what was here before?, what market did the developer aim for?, what built models did the developer emulate, or vary from?, did this succeed as planned?, what would one expect to be the lifetime of this venture?, where did the consumers of this come from, go to? Bring sources, images, and your own text together in a website that is the rough equivalent of a short paper, say of 4-6 normal pages, to be posted on the web and handed in on paper on 21 April.


prelim from here

:Assignment J: Reading Response 5: US Cities, late 20th c., post by 6pm, 28 Apr.
Instructions as in assignment D, but readings focused on topic above.

 


out:

Assignment K: Research Project 4: Character and Distinction, due 3 May.
A research paper on the character of an individual city, or of the American city generally, addressing recurring characterizations and probing the origin and basis. 6-10 pp., handed in on paper.


url=www.brynmawr.edu/cities/250-02/assigs.html; last rev.= 8 Apr 02
[email to instructor]