Part I: The Early Years (1971-91)
Part II: Growth and Renewal: The Cities Program Since 1992

The Early Years (1971-91)

The Cities Program was founded as Bryn Mawr's first interdepartmental major program in 1971. The guiding idea behind the Program was that Bryn Mawr students increasingly needed background training that would prepare them for careers in architecture, city planning, and the social service professions. We hoped, not to create a narrowly 'pre-professional' degree, but rather to offer a foundation for a critical stance toward current problems in dealing with the built environment in its social and political context.

The Program resembled in some ways the other urban studies programs established in many US colleges and universities in the sixties and early seventies, but differed from them in its strong humanistic and social service components. And it was virtually unique in its emphasis on the ways architecture and the built environment are shaped by social and political forces, in the important role that it gave to history, and in the prominence of courses featuring urban cross-cultural comparisons. The rather cumbersome-sounding name, "Growth and Structure of Cities", was chosen in order to convey this combination of historical and analytical perspectives.

Initially, the major required three courses: The Form of the City (a two-semester course until 1978-9), Urban Society, and Senior Seminar (also initially a two-semester course). In addition to these courses, students selected nine others that suited their special interests. These elective courses were to be chosen from two out of three "tracks" (urban history, architecture and city planning, social scientific analyses of the city). Summer internships were funded by outside grants beginning in 1972, and continued to enhance students' academic work in important ways.

The founders of the Cities Program were Barbara Lane in History, Carl Nylander in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, Marc Ross in Political Science, Milton Speizman from the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, and Catherine Lafarge in French. Each taught elective courses within her or his own discipline; Lane and Ross taught the required courses. Lane served as "Director" of the Program from 1971 to 1989. In addition to the founders, a large group of faculty members either introduced new courses that would serve as Cities electives or modified older courses to suit the needs of Cities students. Especially important in the first fifteen years were courses in Sociology, Chemistry (an environmental systems course), French, Spanish, Economics at both Bryn Mawr and Haverford, History of Art, Political Science, History, Latin, Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, and English. From the first, an important series of architectural history courses at Swarthmore also provided a basis for the work of many Cities students' work.

Visitors and Overseas Contacts
From the mid-nineteen-seventies the Program maintained close ties with Chilean, Spanish, and French architects and planners; a number of students were able to work with these individuals at the Bryn Mawr summer programs in Madrid and Avignon. Toward the end of the nineteen-eighties, courses on Chinese cities and Chinese architecture began to amplify the East Asian component of the Program. A core group among participating faculty members formed the "Committee on the Growth and Structure of Cities," which helped to supervise Senior theses, and which met to plan courses and evaluate the development of the Program. A few early thesis titles show the variety of student interests: "Patterns of Urbanization in Non-Western Countries"; "Modeling the Effects of Urbanization on Stream Flow"; "The Dynamics of Neighborhood Organization"; "Two Black Communities on the Main Line: an Oral History"; "Planning Ciudad Guyana"; "Murals in Modern American Cities"; "Parisian Streets at the End of the Nineteen Century"; "The Architecture of U. S. Embassies since the Second World War". From the first year of the Program, Seniors were required to give a talk about the results of their research on the Senior thesis to other Cities faculty and students. Public presentations by students were rare in the College in the early seventies, but have since become much more widespread, perhaps because of the Cities example.

The first five years of the Program were a trial period. During this time, grants from the Charles E. Merrill Trust and then from the National Endowment for the Humanities provided funds for released time for faculty, and for the appointment of visiting faculty. Among the most important of these visitors were historian of architecture and planning George R. Collins (arguably the founder of the history of city planning in this country), historian Valerie Pearl (the History of London since the Roman Period), anthropologist Aidan Southall (Chinese urbanization), anthropologist William Mangin (squatter settlements), and sociologist Abner Cohen (urbanization and ethnicity in West Africa). George Collins' work was so important to the Program that he returned to give courses on two separate occasions. After 1976, the College brought in a number of visitors as leave replacements (including Indian historian Howard Spodek; architect, preservationist, and urban historian George Thomas; suburban development specialist Jonathan Lane; architectural historian Michael Lewis; and sociologist Gerald Foeman).

One of these visitors played a special role over many years, coming first in 1975-76 and then returning almost every other year until 1991. This was Chilean architect, planner, and economist Fernando Soler-Rioseco, who taught Latin American urban development and a variety of courses on architecture and planning, shared in the Senior Seminar, and participated actively in the governance of the Program. Along with other Spanish planners, Soler also taught for many summers at the Bryn Mawr program in Madrid. The Program and its early students owed him a great deal. He also established a commitment to discussion of Latin American Cities that the Program affirmed with the appointment of a full-time Latin Americanist in 2001.

Faculty and Curriculum Changes
In 1980, the College replaced Barbara Lane in the History Department, enabling her to devote full time to the Cities Program. But except for a brief joint appointment with Economics in the later nineteen-eighties (Sun-Woong Kim, an economist and city planner from MIT), no faculty member was appointed directly to the Cities Program during its first twenty years. This changed in 1991-2, when the College authorized a full-time appointment to the Program, a person who would also serve as its Director. After an intensive world-wide search for this individual, urban anthropologist Gary Wray McDonogh was appointed as Professor and Director in 1992.

There were of course curricular shifts during the first two decades. By the middle 1980s, all the original founders of the Program except Marc Ross, Catherine Lafarge, and Barbara Lane had left campus or retired, two of the history professors who were active in the Program had left, and many other faculty had somewhat shifted the emphasis of their research and teaching. Thus it was necessary to revise the requirements and course offerings. The Form of the City became a one-semester course, offered annually; Urban Society was not given after 1982 but was replaced by other social science courses. The Senior Seminar became a one-semester course in 1984; after that date its teaching was always shared by two faculty members, in order to assure an interdisciplinary perspective and sufficient attention to the growing numbers of seniors.

Expansion of Architecture Program
The most notable change in elective offerings was the introduction of increased numbers of courses in architectural history, and the introduction of the architectural design courses. There were many courses in ancient architecture available to the Cities Program from its inception, and the Form of the City course placed heavy emphasis on architecture in its urban context. But the architecture of more recent periods was now taught extensively as well. This change resulted partly from a shift in teaching interests among Historians of Art, partly from increased offerings by Barbara Lane, and partly from the needs of students. Ever-increasing numbers of graduates went on to architecture school, for which they needed more modern architectural history and some work in architectural design.

Architectural Design, first offered as a single-semester non-credit course in 1980 in response to student pressure, was offered for major credit within the Cities Major from 1982, and expanded to two semesters in 1987-88. Until 1986, students prepared their design work in a series of makeshift spaces, but then, through the generosity of Gilbert P. Schafer (Cities, '84) and the Bolton Foundation, Rockefeller Studio was established for them. The Bolton Foundation has supported many other worthwhile endeavors within the Cities Program, including prizes, internships, and lecture funds.

The first Cities major graduated in 1972; by 1977, there were six; in 1979, ten. A few Haverford students began to major in the Program in 1976-7. In the middle nineteen-eighties, after a parallel program at Haverford was abandoned, Haverford students began to major in much larger numbers in the Bryn Mawr Program. The number of graduating seniors rose to sixteen, and stayed at about that level until the early nineteen-nineties. During the first twenty years, more than half of all Cities majors went on to careers in architecture, city planning, and such related fields as environmental consulting and development. Since that time, a substantial number have become national leaders in these professions. In the late nineteen-eighties, a number of students began to go on to graduate school in History of Art, History of Architecture, and American Studies. By now, these students have also distinguished themselves in their fields.

Faculty and students had fun. We joined with students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania to form a rescue archaeology team in York, England. Often we took field trips to Philadelphia and Columbia, MD. Our parties were frequent and the food at them was famous. Students returned to campus for conferences and celebrations in 1987, and again in 1991 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Cities Program.

— By Barbara Miller Lane, Professor Emeritus

Growth and Renewal: The Cities Program Since 1992

In 1991, Barbara Lane returned to the Cities Program after a two-year absence, after teaching at Columbia and participating in the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin. During these years, and continuing until 1992, James Wright of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology directed the program. In 1992, Gary McDonogh, who has held the first appointment exclusively dedicated to the program, was appointed Director. Working with Daniela Voith and Samuel Olshin, who continued to supervise the studio design components of the program, the dedication of a second line to the program provided a strong vote of support from the college and gave the program an opportunity to reexamine orientation, curriculum, and prospects. This new initiative took shape within the framework of the original generative vision of the program as it had been refined by two decades of students and faculty, but has also grown through the interests of faculty and students.

Development of the Core Curriculum, 1992-97
One of the first areas of concern for the new team in the department was the development of a consistent core curriculum across social sciences to complement the established core courses in history of architecture and urban form. Urban Culture and Society was introduced to the program in 1992 and a writing-intensive intermediate course, Comparative Urbanism, followed that spring. Barbara Lane and Gary McDonogh co-taught the Senior Seminar until 1997. Other new courses looked at geographical approaches to space and place, elite and popular culture (including film and mass media), and the socio-cultural foundations of planning and power. In conjunction with other social science programs, the program continued its commitment to a wide global perspective, including consistent course work in East Asia to augment traditional strengths in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, Latin America, and the United States.

Again, the goal of the program remained to articulate core courses in conjunction with offerings in other programs. In its third decade, Cities was able to rely on continuing offerings in History of Art, Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, French, History, Political Science, Economics, Anthropology, Sociology, and Geology, embracing new faculty as well as established friends and colleagues at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore. Cities also began to work closely with other programs: as East Asian Studies took shape as another interdisciplinary major, for example, Professor Michael Nylan offered annual courses to extend the boundaries of the Cities program. This pattern of cooperation would be repeated later with the program in Education, the interdisciplinary program in Environmental Studies and other programs.

Students as well as faculty remade the major. In the early 1990s, the number of majors gradually rose as students explored new opportunities in the program, reaching a plateau of 20-25 majors per year in the mid-1990s. Student interests also guided the program into new paths. Cities participation in Environmental Studies, for example, was pioneered by majors who developed this as a concentration within the major in the 1990s. Other students showed the fit between the analytic frames and civic issues of the program, and careers in law, medicine, business, communications, education and public health; while majors had gone on into these fields in the past, there had been large and active new clusters in these professional fields. Seniors and their projects, in turn, have enriched the content of core courses and seminars in the program, whether in new classes on housing and dwelling, or in ongoing discussions of the ideology of "New Urbanism."

These years also brought some new participants into the program. Jeffrey Cohen, who holds a Ph.D. in architectural history from the University of Pennsylvania and specializes in 19th century architecture, first brought his immense knowledge of Philadelphia into the program when he replaced Barbara Lane during her leaves in 1995-1996. He then replaced Gary McDonogh during his 1996-1997 Fulbright lectureship in Hong Kong. In 1997, Jeff Cohen took on a continuing administrative position at Bryn Mawr, which meant that he taught two classes in the Cities program each year, developing popular electives in American architecture, collegiate architecture, and visual fieldwork. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2001, joining Daniela Voith at this rank, and in 2003-4 became a near full-time continuing faculty member in the program. Sharon Ann (Shan) Holt, who had substituted in the Bryn Mawr history department, also offered Cities classes in 1996-1997, specializing in questions of gender and inequality in American urban history. Alumna Catherine Murdock also taught classes on gender and urbanism during this time.

The 1990s also saw new visitors from social sciences. They included Robert Rotenberg of International Studies at DePaul University, Carles Carreras Verdaguer, Chair of the Department of Human Geography of the University of Barcelona (under the aegis of the Hewlett Foundation), Judith Goode of Temple, and Setha Low, Chair of the Department of Environmental Psychology at CUNY, who came as Class of 1902 lecturer to present her work on gated communities. Thomas Wilson of Binghamton University received this support in 2002 to share his work on Belfast. Eugenie Birch, a student of Barbara Lane's who had been inspirational in the formation of the Cities Program, also returned to the area to chair the Program in Urban and Regional Planning at Penn. In addition to lecturing at Bryn Mawr, she has also helped strengthen the 3/2 B.A./M.C.P. program between Penn and Bryn Mawr. Louis Massiah, MacArthur award-winning founder and director of Scribe Video in Philadelphia, has also shared his films and vision on campus several times, as have other professionals in architecture, journalism and urban planning.

Changes and Expansion, 1997-present
By the time the program celebrated its thirty-fifth anniversary in 1996, with a keynote address by Daniela Voith, it had certainly grown within the general vision laid out for it in the 1970s. In the fall of 1997, however, it would face a new transition with the plans for retirement of founder Barbara Miller Lane. With approval from CAP, Cities began an international search in 1998 for someone who would build upon the foundations Barbara Lane had established in architectural and planning history. After a lengthy international search, Bryn Mawr hired Carola Hein, who holds degrees in architecture and engineering from the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg, Germany, with specialties in recent modern architecture and in the history of Japanese planning. She arrived in 1999, once again expanding course offerings through her knowledge of Japan as well as increasing cooperation with the German Studies program. In her years at Bryn Mawr, Carola Hein has brought European, American, and Asian scholars to campus, and has organized two successful global conferences on rebuilding Japanese cities after World War II.

Barbara Lane's retirement was celebrated in a series of events, as well as by the creation of an ongoing Lectureship set up in order to create "a forum for innovative research on the relationship between history, culture, architecture, and urban form." This lectureship, supported by donations from students, colleagues, and alumnae, began in 2001 with two lectures, by Mary McLeod of Columbia University and by Joan Ockman, also of Columbia. They were followed in 2003 by Alice Freedman of Wellesley College. As a Katherine McBride Emeritus Professor, Barbara Lane has continued to be actively engaged as a mentor and teacher with students, faculty and alumnae/i. She has also offered frequent courses and talks developing her interests in the home and domestic space, the Bauhaus, and other themes of modern architecture.

Another retirement that deserves mention was that of Mary Campo, who had served for years as Administrative Assistant for the Departments of Art, Archaeology, and Cities until she retired in 1998. Her successor, Pamela Cohen, has continued to provide Cities with unfailing support and a vast knowledge of Philadelphia as well.

In 1997, the Cities Program gained a new home with the opening of the Rhys Carpenter library attached to Thomas Library, including the Barbara Miller Lane seminar room. With such bright new spaces and increasing numbers of majors and students, the continuing demands of the program also led us to return to CAP to request further faculty. In 2000, this permitted a search for a colleague in a new position in Latin American urbanism, a position that would finally be filled in 2001 by Juan Manuel Arbona, who holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional planning from Cornell, and works on the informal economy in Bolivia. In addition to adding classes on Latin American and global cities, Juan Arbona has introduced a regular course on research methods and policy analysis, and electives on social movements and urban theory.

In this new expansion of the program, Cities students and faculty have also been supported by those who offered classes on a part-time as well as full-time basis and by others who have come to the program through Bryn Mawr teaching fellowships. Part-time faculty include: architectural historian Joe Nasr, who offered a class on Sustainable Cities (1998); planner Rick Berman, who offered introductory courses in Planning and Historical Preservation (2000-2001); anthropologist Charles Rutheiser, who taught classes on Latin American and global cities (2000-2001); architectural historian Marie Frank, who took over from Carola Hein in Western architecture under the aegis of a Whiting Fellowship; historian of the landscape Joseph Disponzio, who developed that neglected intersection of form and environment as a sabbatical replacement for Carola Hein (2002-2003); and Despina Stratigakos, a doctoral student of Barbara Lane in the Department of History of Art who returned as a Whiting Postdoctoral Fellow and offered popular seminars in Cities and History of Art on "Gender, Architecture, and Space", and on "Museums as Architecture and Cultural Practice" (2002-2003).

Despina Stratigakos and Catherine Murdock also exemplify the strong contributions that alumnae/i have continued to make to the program as visiting lectures, mentors for graduating students, guides and friends. Alums have also joined us for regular celebrations in the department, including senior dinners and majors' teas and "non-teas." They have also helped with field trips to Baltimore and other places, advised current students on graduate schools and grants, and provided lively conversations, criticisms and news while constructing new networks in Philadelphia, Boston, New York, San Francisco and other areas.

With 40-50 junior and senior majors each year and hundreds of graduates worldwide, in fact, this wider Cities network has become even more able to provide resources and ideas to keep the program vital in the twenty-first century, as it continues to grapple with the fundamental questions posed by its founders more than three decades ago. What is the importance of urban form in the built environment amid changing technologies of communication, new movements of people, and changing perceptions of values and threats? What are our goals as scholars, students, professionals, and citizens who work in urban settings? What can we learn from global developments and yet anchor in local contexts? How do we bring theories and practice into partnership? These are questions that the Cities Program will continue to explore as it enters its fifth decade.

— By Gary W. McDonough, Helen Herrman Chair and Professor, Acting Chair of the Growth and Structure of Cities Department


Contact Us

Department of Growth and Structure of Cities

Old Library
Bryn Mawr College
101 N. Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
Phone: 610-526-5334