A Country of Cities

Real Estate Development

Spring 2013

Vishaan Chakrabarti + Omar Toro-Vaca, instructors

This course, based on Professor Chakrabarti’s forthcoming book A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America, hypothesized that hyperdensity – defined as density above 30 units/acre – paired with robust transit infrastructure is a potential “silver bullet” for addressing many of the economic and social ills confronting the United States today. Structured as an analysis of urban policies that have led to America’s profligate use of land, and as a proposition on how to correct course with new policy initiatives for creating an “infrastructure of opportunity,” the book envisions a county of towers, trains and trees as the best path to keep our nation and our developing planet economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable. Given the nation’s role as a global purveyor of culture, America’s embrace of a far denser land-use pattern is imagined to influence the development pattern of countries with emerging economies, where billions are moving from poverty to middle class affluence worldwide.

The book was required reading, while the syllabus offered additional, optional readings. The course featured four lectures by Professor Chakrabarti, covering two chapters each, and one all-day student presentation. Pairs of students constructed and presented opposing views on the projects they believe relate to the central thesis of the book. Each person took the role of a skeptic or a believer and made compelling arguments for how the project supports or contradicts the book’s hypothesis.