Physical Structure of Cities

Urban Planning

Spring 2013

Elliott Sclar, instructor, with Alexis Perrotta

City form is at once solid and unchanging and forever in a state of flux. Even as we gaze upon the stable and concrete, larger forces are conspiring to change it. As unseen microbes constantly rearrange the planet so too are unseen social forces rearranging the physical city. Of special and pressing concern at the dawn of a new century is the urgent need to create built forms and spatial structures that are physically sustainable in the face of climate change, fierce global competition for resources, and a need to change cities from places were inputs are consumed and waste products are expelled into places that recycle much of the material that they require to function. Understanding the connection between the continuous forces of societal change and the changing shape of urban physical structure is always reflexive. Reflexive here refers to the fact that social forces are always reacting to each other. It is the ever-continuing play between the uniqueness of individual cities and the generic quality of the global urban experience that defines the scope of contemporary urban planning.