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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Theory of City Form (Spring 2013)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via MIT OpenCourseWare


Course Features
  • Video lectures
  • Lecture notes
  • Assignments: written with examples
Educator Features
  • Instructor insights
Course Description

This course covers theories about the form that settlements should take and attempts a distinction between descriptive and normative theory by examining examples of various theories of city form over time. Case studies will highlight the origins of the modern city and theories about its emerging form, including the transformation of the nineteenth-century city and its organization. Through examples and historical context, current issues of city form in relation to city-making, social structure, and physical design will also be discussed and analyzed.


1. Introduction to Theory of City Form.
2. Normative Theory I: The City as Supernatural.
3. Normative Theory II: The City as Machine.
4. Normative Theory III: The City as Organism.
5. Descriptive and Functional Theory.
6. Dimensions, Patterns, Agreements, Structure, and Syntax.
7. The Early Cities of Capitalism.
8. Transformations I: London.
9. Transformations II: Paris.
10. Transformations III: Vienna and Barcelona.
11. Transformations IV: Chicago.
12. Transformations V: Panopticism, St. Petersburg and Berlin.
13. Utopianism as Social Reform and Built Form.
14. 20th Century Realizations: Russia and Great Britain.
15. City Form and Process.
16. Spatial & Social Structure I: Theory.
17. Spatial & Social Structure II: Bipolarity.
18. Spatial & Social Structure III: Colony & Post-colony.
19. Form Models I: Modern and Post-modern Urbanism.
20. Form Models II: Open-endedness and Prophecy.
21. Form Models III and IV: Rationality and Memory.
22. Cases I: Public and Private Domains.
23. Cases II: Suburbs and Periphery.
24. Cases III: Post-urbanism and Resource Conservation.
25. Cases IV: Hyper and Mega-urbanism.
26. Conclusion: Towards a Theory of City Form.
Teaching 4.241J/11.330J: Embracing Complexities of Urbanism.

Taught by

Prof. Julian Beinart


4.0 rating, based on 1 Class Central review

Start your review of Theory of City Form (Spring 2013)

  • Profile image for Mana HIROSE
    Mana HIROSE
    It was good opportunity for me to learn about how city is formed. I could learn various things about the forming cities. In the future, I want to get job related to city form, so I was glad to learn about it through this course.

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