Reading the City: A built environment perspective

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSDe2SD0104

Semester and Year Offered: 4th Semester, Winter Semester

Course Coordinator and Team: Divya Chopra

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: BA / BDes

Course Objectives/Description:

This course will help students understand how built environment and spatial configurations connect with social processes and transformations as one engages with the everyday city. As an elective, this will provide an opportunity for students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds such as gender studies, development studies, visual art, performance studies etc. to understand these inter-linkages as a way of reading our cities through urban design methods and tools.

Course Outcomes:

With respect to the present trends of urban development, the city and its public realm becomes an important domain of study and intervention. On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Define an urban space with respect to its physical, social and symbolic dimensions.
  2. Have an understanding of multiple imaginations of space and contestations therein, while exploring the varied concepts of space, place and its manifold characteristics.
  3. Critically engage with some of the significant themes and issues concerning urban public spaces and the complexities within.
  4. Use urban design tools and methods to map the everyday urban spaces in the city
  5. Understand the concept of Placemaking

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

This course is primarily a field-based engagement to map spatial and social transformations towards unearthing alternative social narratives emerging within the current urban development paradigm. As students map these everyday nuances of urban space, it will help them understand how communities contribute towards critical spatial imaginations and its physical manifestations. The course will be delivered along the following three modules:

Module 1: Introduction to the Built environment of cities (3 weeks)

This module will introduce the idea of built environment within an urban setting through its basic components of form, space and physical networks along with mapping techniques and representational methods. While engaging with contemporary urban discourse, the module will discuss production of urban form and space and its varied conceptual and physical manifestations. It will explore multiple scalar imaginations as constructed both within public as well as private realms. Situated within everyday urbanism, it will try to unearth varied dimensions of urban form and space while focusing on processes of production.

Module 2: Space, Place and Placemaking (6 weeks)

This module will explore the idea of ‘Placemaking’ and how it is formulated to negotiate differences among multiple actors with diverse agencies. Exposure to questions of space and place would be understood through a set of mapping tasks covering informal economies, marginal communities, gender and youth, gentrification etc. The module will discuss the idea of appropriation of space, transformations of space from public to private, space as a contested domain towards addressing varied social issues and aspects of belonging, ownership, access, resistance and social justice.

Module 3: Spatial Imaginations (3 weeks)

The concluding module will familiarize students with multiple representations of space within varied creative mediums such as films, literature and (public) art. Whilst trying to engage with these narratives the module will try to explore multiple imaginations of space (spaces of modernity vs. post modernity) with respect to how they have been created in the past, how they are lived in the present and how they are envisioned for the future.

Assessment Details with weights:

The course comprises three assignments.

  • Site Mapping 1 - 30%
  • Site Mapping 2 - 30%
  • Final Paper Presentation - 40%

Reading List:

  • Ali Madanipour (2004), Selected reading, Public and Private Spaces of the City, Taylor & Francis
  • David Harvey (2012), Right to the City, New Left Review (Sept Oct)
  • Doreen Massey (1994), Selected readings, Space, Place and Gender, Polity Press
  • Edward W. Soja (1980), The Socio-Spatial Dialectic, Association of American Geographers
  • Italo Calvino (1972), Selected Readings Invisible Cities (Fiction), GiulioEinaudi
  • Rahul Mehrotra (2008), Negotiating the Static and Kinetic Cities, from ‘Other Cities, Other Worlds: Urban Imaginaries in a Globalizing Age’, edited by Andreas Huyssen, Duke University Press
  • Sharon Zukin (1996), Whose Culture? Whose City?, from The Cultures of Cities, Wiley
  • Additional Reference:
  • Dell Upton (2002), Architecture in Everyday Life, New Literary History
  • Dolores Hayden (1995), Urban Landscape History: The Sense of Place and the Politics of Space
  • Edward W. Soja (1996), Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places, Wiley
  • Henri Lefebvre (1991), Selected reading, Production of Space, Wiley
  • Ian Bentley (1985), Selected readings, Responsive Environments: A manual for designers, Architectural Press
  • Jane Jacobs (1992), The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Vintage Books
  • John Chase, John Kaliski, Margaret Crawford (Ed.) (1999), Everyday Urbanism, The Monacelli Press, New York
  • Kevin Lynch (1960), The City Image and its elements, from The Image of the City, MIT Press
  • Mike Davis (1990), City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, Verso
  • Ray Oldenburg (Revised Edition) (1999), The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community, Da Capo Press
  • Setha Low (2014), Spatializing Culture: An Engaged Anthropological Approach to Space and Place
  • William H. Whyte (1980), The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, Conservation Foundation, University of Michigan