AH/US 375 - Evolution of the Modern City: Urban Development and Architecture

Berlin is justifiably recognized as a city whose development has been profoundly affected by the principal political, economic, technological, and aesthetic trends of the last two hundred years, and as a laboratory of radical modern European archi-tecture in the 20th century. In this course, we shall examine Berlin's complicated and often turbulent material evolution, taking advantage of our presence in the city to explore its urban landscape firsthand, and ask whether the forces that have forged Berlin's built identity are the same that have been at work in other cities, both European and non-European. Students in the course will visit many of the city's iconic architectural sites, and in class compare them to other key built environments in cities across the world. How have absolutist ideas, whether monarchic or totalitarian, found reflection in the city’s architecture? How have periods of pow-erful economic growth, whether spurred by the Industrial Revolution or the "economic miracle" of the post-war Wirtschaftswunder, determined urban growth? How have the 20th century's primary competing ideological systems—democratic market capitalism and communism—altered the course of design and city development in Europe? How have specific aesthetic and/or social movements in Berlin (such as Garden City, modernism, postmodernism, Critical Reconstruction, or New Urbanism) arisen, and why have some lost favor? What role does the monument play in a topography so charged by history, much of it grim? Berlin offers a unique opportunity to examine these questions in a rare location where they have all played a vital role. The course seeks to address one key question in particular: What is the relationship between architecture and the evolution of the modern city? We will seek to find out how the former constitutes and provides signification for the latter, and how, as culture inevitably transforms the city, its structures either shed their previous meaning, or add new layers that in turn require new methods of decipherment.

Course Information


Art History
Urban Studies

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