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

Milan is a renown global city, particularly recognized as a capital of design and fashion. Yet its history stretches back more than 2,500 years from its origins as a Celtic village, serving as one of the capitals of the Roman Empire, and later playing a key role in the industrial development of modern Italy. Despite this vast history spanning thousands of years, urban traces of these varying periods still remain and serve as invaluable tools to teach us about the city. In this course, we shall explore Milan’s urban evolution, taking
advantage of our presence in the city to explore its urban landscape firsthand, and ask whether the forces that have forged Milan’s built identity are the same that have been at work in other cities. Each week of the course, there will be a thematic lecture and visit to many of the city's iconic architectural sites and urban areas typical of various phases of the city’s development, from antiquity to today. In class, students will use these examples to learn from and compare to other key built environments in cities across the world through the required readings, case study, and research paper. Together, we will start by exploring the logic of ancient city planning, often based on military expediency and expansion. Then we will look at absolutist ideas, from medieval dynasties to fascist totalitarianism. We will reflect on the goals of 19th and 20th century urban planners, who aimed to apply a new logic to the organization of the city and the long-term effects on the city’s evolution. We’ll learn the differences between emerging architectural styles, not only from the perspective of design, but also the contrasting ideologies behind their development and impact on the urban environment. Finally, we’ll look at recent urban trends and post-industrial strategies from the embrace of cultural regeneration to the use of mega-events and large-scale developments to boost urban growth and global competitiveness. The main goals of the course are to first differentiate and recognize these various phases of the city’s evolution and ultimately decipher the range of their ongoing impacts on the urban environment. From this course, students will have a greater comprehension of the formation of contemporary cities and heightened awareness of the inner workings of urbanity as well their own daily interactions with and contributions to these processes.

Course Information


Art History
Urban Studies

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