History of The European City: Mythos + Topos

New York/Paris

Spring 2013

Mary Vaughan Johnson, instructor

The aim of this course was to introduce students to the study of urban forms as they are reflected in the history of the European city. The course focused on the procedures of representation that analyze a city’s evolution from its formative years to its subsequent transformations as determined by cultural traditions and as shaped by social, material and economic forces over time. In exploring the tangible results of these forces students developed an appreciation for the ideas and intentions that take shape and mold cities. A focus on the construction of operative representations of the city required first-hand experience of the city. The course not only included class lectures and seminars but exercises that entailed being in the city, seeing, feeling and touching it in order to stress these as essential means to portray its genius loci and to grasp its historical complexities. This approach was intended to provide for the design student the fundamental tools necessary for the forecasting of future urban interventions that can range from the smallest detail such as a door handle or hinge to the larger detail such as a building or monument.