About this Course
4.7
408 ratings
101 reviews
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100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Flexible deadlines

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.
Hours to complete

Approx. 20 hours to complete

Suggested: 4-6 hours/week...
Available languages

English

Subtitles: English

Skills you will gain

Landscape DesignSustainable ArchitectureHistoric PreservationLandscape Architecture
100% online

100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Flexible deadlines

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.
Hours to complete

Approx. 20 hours to complete

Suggested: 4-6 hours/week...
Available languages

English

Subtitles: English

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

Week
1
Hours to complete
1 hour to complete

How Today’s City Evolved

Sometimes people talk about cities as if they are outside people’s control, like the weather. We are using the word designing in the name of our course, because everything that happens to shape cities is actually the result of decisions made by governments, business investors, and citizens. Our course is about understanding how and why these decisions get made, and how they can be organized and improved. In other words, the ways cities are designed, and ways people can design them to be better. Almost everyone lives in or near a city, and some people taking this course will just want to find out more about the forces that shape where they live. Other people who enroll in our course will come from the design professions: architects, landscape architects, urban planners, or students in these subjects. Others may come from economics, engineering or the social sciences. We hope some will be government officials or people active in organizations that try to improve their communities. There are courses on line in engineering, mathematics, or the sciences, where you can be tested about whether you have mastered the material. Other courses are about understanding and evaluating something like a book, a film, or a painting, where your responses are clearly shaped by what you are studying. Designing Cities draws on so many subjects, and responds to so many different geographical and social conditions, that we have structured our assignments to draw you into a conversation, or as close to a conversation as we can get with so many participants. We will be asking you to identify and evaluate situations in your own communities based on what you will be learning in our course. We will select a few representative assignments to discuss after each assignment is due, and we hope that you will continue the discussion in the Forums. As you will see from the schedule on the course website, each week will have a theme, and there will be 4 or 5 modules related to that theme you should watch each week. There will be 3 assignments. In addition to the presentations we and our guest lecturers will be making, we will provide you with suggested reading assignments for each module. We think the presentations stand on their own; but, if you have access to the books we suggest, you will be able to deepen your understanding, and find ways to go beyond our course on subjects that particularly interest you. So again, welcome. More and more people in the world are being drawn to cities. How to design cities so they are sustainable and provide a better life for everyone could not be more important: right now and in the future. ...
Reading
7 videos (Total 56 min), 1 reading
Video7 videos
Introductory Discussion5m
Intro to Assignment 1 1m
The Pre-Industrial Revolution12m
Cities in the Industrial Revolution11m
Cities in 195010m
Today’s Regional City9m
Reading1 reading
Optional Module Reading10m
Week
2
Hours to complete
1 hour to complete

Ideas That Shape Cities

During the opening week we have given you a very quick sketch of the evolution of cities from pre-industrial times to today’s multi-centered urban regions. Of course you understand that charting the development of cities encapsulates almost everything that has happened in the last 200 years. We can’t possibly tell the whole story, but we hope we have a provided a useful framework. In this second week we will be introducing you to some of the ideas that have shaped the design of cities. We start with Modernist City Design, which is not so modern any more as it began in the 1920s, but is still a major force. Then we discuss Traditional City Design which builds on ideas about public space that go back before the industrial revolution. Green City Design, our next topic, is increasingly important today because of the need to preserve natural resources and adapt to climate change – but some of the ideas about Green City Design go back thousands of years, particularly in China, Korea and Japan. Systems City Design also has deep historical roots, but big advances in systems thinking about cities have been made possible by computers. We present these ideas as being of equal importance in their different ways, and remind you that the distinctions we make are to some extent artificial: city designers may need to draw on all four, depending on the situation. But there are people who take sides. Modernists attack traditional design as unsuitable today; traditionalists say that modernism makes cities unlivable. Green urbanists say that landscape should be primary, not buildings; and systems designers can assert that other kinds of design are inefficient and not based on objective standards. You are free to take sides, yourselves, if you wish, and most people will have preferences for one kind of design over another. But we think that treating city design ideas as exclusive ideologies is a mistake; improving cities is difficult enough already. It is important, however, to understand where city design ideas come from, to be able to recognize them in your own communities, and to know how to draw on these ideas when you make your own designs. ...
Reading
5 videos (Total 57 min), 1 reading
Video5 videos
Modernist City Design11m
Traditional City Design14m
Green City Design13m
Systems City Design12m
Reading1 reading
Optional Module Reading10m
Week
3
Hours to complete
3 hours to complete

Tools for Designing Cities

We have seen that powerful design ideas can have a big influence on cities: towers surrounded by open space, a tree-lined boulevard, houses set amid lawns and gardens, a corridor of denser buildings supported by a transit line. But city design is not an “act of will” by an individual designer. It is a complicated process involving government, private investment, and the public – acting as both consumers, and as concerned local citizens. During this week we will begin discussing some of the important ways to manage the design and development of cities, such as investments in infrastructure, writing codes and design guidelines, and creating financial incentives for better city design, plus negotiation as a means of resolving disagreements – and sometimes outright controversy. Governments and utilities decide where to locate water and sewer pipes, electricity, phone and cable wires, highways and bridges, trains and transit, airports and ports – and all these decisions have a powerful shaping effect on cities. The inclusive name for all these services is infrastructure. We will make a preliminary presentation about them this week, but infrastructure issues will be a recurring theme as our course goes forward. Later on in the course we will also be discussing informal settlements which have grown up without much infrastructure. The issue then becomes how to retrofit these places and give them necessary support. Government regulation is another big shaping force for cities. Most development does not go forward without some kind of official permit. If the public is getting the development it is officially requiring, the question becomes: is this really the best development, and – if not – why not? How to write codes and regulations to produce the most desirable city is another big city design issue which we will begin discussing this week. Real-estate investment is obviously another powerful force shaping cities. Every city design concept raises questions about who benefits and who is going to pay. This week we will begin discussing the financial incentives which can help implement city designs. Finally, people often disagree about what is best for a city. Resolving these differences requires negotiation, sometimes after confrontation. In your own community you may well have seen zoning disputes about a new shopping center or a tall building; controversies about changes in highways or transit routes; or concerns about the preservation of landscape and open space. These are all city design issues, and they demonstrate how important achieving the right kind of city design is for everyone. ...
Reading
5 videos (Total 47 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video5 videos
Investment in Infrastructure10m
Codes and Design Guidelines8m
Incentives for Better City Design9m
Negotiation for Common Goods13m
Reading1 reading
Optional Module Reading10m
Week
4
Hours to complete
1 hour to complete

Making Cities Sustainable

Last week we learned about tools that manage the design and development of cities, including infrastructure investments, codes and design guidelines, financial incentives for better city design, and negotiations for common goods between those who build cities and those who make sure the public interest is served. These tools are even more important today, since climate change poses an acute threat to our cities, and the way in which our cities have been designed has been part of the problem. This week we will deal with some of the most important ways of making our cities more sustainable. We will discuss topics such as ecological urbanism, transportation as a growth armature, managing water -including floods and water scarcity, and green infrastructure and renewable energy. Landscape architecture has gained momentum lately as an important instrument of urban development. Landscape urbanism, ecological urbanism, and landscape infrastructure are some recent concepts about how to synthesize cities with nature. This is not simply about topography and trees, but more broadly about ecologically driven infrastructure, public space, and urbanization. Transportation is more than moving people from place to place. It has the ability shape the form, function, and quality of life of cities. We will look at some of the ways in which transportation can contribute to the creation and continuing viability of great urban centers, using fewer resources. As temperatures are increasing, glaciers are receding, ocean levels are rising, and storms are intensifying, how should we rethink the design and location of cities, especially coastal cities? As global warming shrinks freshwater supplies while populations continue to grow, how can we improve cities’ provision of water? We will look at some of the most important ways for cities to manage water, including how to fight water scarcity and prevent or mitigate floods. Urban green spaces should not be seen just as places for leisure time, but also as a viable alternative to grey infrastructure. For instance, green roofs, bio swales, and constructed wetlands can perform such functions as storm water management and water purification. Finally, instead of using traditional energy sources in cities that contribute to heating up our atmosphere, we can achieve zero-carbon communities by using renewable energy from natural sources that are continually replenished, including solar power, wind, biomass and geothermal heat. Today, as the effects of climate change become apparent, cities around the world should increasingly build green infrastructure and use renewable energy. ...
Reading
6 videos (Total 76 min), 1 reading
Video6 videos
Introductory Discussion4m
Intro to Assignment 21m
Ecological Urbanism12m
Managing Water: Flooding and Scarcity9m
Green Infrastructure and Renewable Energy15m
Reading1 reading
Optional Module Reading10m
4.7
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20%

started a new career after completing these courses
Career Benefit

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Top Reviews

By JGApr 19th 2016

good course, however, it was almost impossible to figure out how to do some of the assignments. I have no idea how to do PDF files. Although, I learned some of the key concepts easily.

By BRJul 3rd 2016

I like the way what we have learned in this course. The material, concepts & professors. The only issue is with the platform, in the referenced reading, we have to buy all this books?

Instructors

Avatar

Gary Hack

Professor and dean emeritus
City and Regional Planning, PennDesign
Avatar

Jonathan Barnett

Professor of Practice in City and Regional Planning
City Planning
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Stefan Al

Associate Professor of Urban Design
City and Regional Planning

About University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania (commonly referred to as Penn) is a private university, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. A member of the Ivy League, Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, and considers itself to be the first university in the United States with both undergraduate and graduate studies. ...

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Once you enroll for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

  • When you purchase a Certificate you get access to all course materials, including graded assignments. Upon completing the course, your electronic Certificate will be added to your Accomplishments page - from there, you can print your Certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. If you only want to read and view the course content, you can audit the course for free.

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