Metropolitan Development: Urban Studies in Comparative Perspective

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Course Information
Urban Studies
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 

Berlin is justifiably recognized as a laboratory of modern European urban history, a city whose evolution has been profoundly affected by the principal political, economic, and aesthetic trends of the last two hundred years. In this course we shall examine Berlin's complicated and often turbulent development, taking advantage of our presence in the city to explore its urban landscape firsthand, and ask whether the forces that continue to forge Berlin's identity are the same that have been at work in other European and American cities. How does the European model of urban development compare to various American or global models? Since Berlin is a relatively young city by European standards, can it be held up as an example of "old world" urbanism, or does it in fact have more in common with American cities than some might think?

Students in the course visit many of the city's historic sites, and in class compare them to urban prototypes in Paris, Vienna, St. Petersburg, New York, Los Angeles, Lagos, and Dubai—among other cities. How have absolutist policies, whether monarchic or totalitarian, influenced the city? How have periods of powerful economic growth, whether spurred by 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 urban development in Europe? Berlin offers a unique opportunity to examine these questions in the one location where they have all played a vital role.

The course devotes time to important urban issues, both historical and actual: the relationship of municipal and state government in city planning (the transformation of Paris under Baron Haussmann and Napoleon III in the 19th century; the works programs of Robert Moses in New York City in the 20th century); the role of the automobile in the propagation of suburban sprawl; the impact of new technology on urban development; the city as an imperial or (post-)colonial power center; demographic challenges (shrinking versus expanding cities); the emergence of specific urban movements (Garden City, modernism, postmodernism, "Critical Reconstruction," "New Urbanism"); contrasting patterns of racism, poverty, and immigration; security in an age of terrorism; and the impact of global warming.