Histories & Theories

Courses cover the histories and theories of urban design and planning. Emphasis is placed upon teaching, and normalizing, marginalized histories and theories to counter what Leonie Sandercock refers to as the “dominant narratives of planning.”


History + Theory: Precincts (ENVD 3134)


This course introduces the major histories and theories guiding “precinct”-level design works from both Western and non-Western perspectives. “Precinct” implies a district-scale of design somewhere between buildings and cities. As such, we will focus on the fields of landscape architecture and urban design, including: small domestic gardens, estates, city parks, national parks, greenways, urban design plans, and sustainable and restorative designs. Ultimately, these works are an assembly of cultural and ecological processes, social values, and economic and political forces. Through the examination of different movements and periods, we will explore changes and continuity in our thinking about landscape architecture and urban design.


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Identify major historical and theoretical movements in landscape architecture and urban design, and relate each to its cultural, environmental, intellectual, economic, and political contexts.

  2. Describe the main concepts undergirding many precinct-level designs – explaining the processes by which human creativity and agency invest capital resources and artistic expression into recognizable, meaningful designs.

  3. Diagram a clear framework of processes, ideas, elements, periods, and geographic regions in which the rich diversity of landscape, urban design, and their histories can be organized and understood across time.

  4. Analyze the underlying principles of landscape and urban designs and investigate their larger cultural contexts.


Spring 2017; Spring 2018


Global Cities (ENVD 4100)


Cities are a critical component of global economic, social, and environmental systems. As such, they form excellent cases for examining some of the most pressing contemporary global issues. However, it is important to first ask: what exactly constitutes a “city?” How do we define “city?” And does this definition change depending upon our global positioning or the issues at hand?

The Global Cities seminar (ENVD 4100) introduces students to the basic skills and knowledge needed to comparatively examine cities from across the world. It also arms students with basic knowledge of city planning practices from diverse contexts and communities worldwide. The course is mainly based upon class discussions of readings and case studies. Students will debate the merits and shortcomings of a variety of existing perspectives and approaches to studying and improving cities around the world.


As such, the learning goals for this course are to:

  1. Introduce students to some of the basic concepts needed to be conversant in city planning and international development;

  2. Promote critical thinking and problem-solving with regard to the diverse conditions found in cities across the world;

  3. Explore and test a variety of existing approaches to planning and development globally; and

  4. Create more aware global citizens, deepening students’ understandings of their roles in an increasingly global world.


Fall 2017; Fall 2018


Planning Theory (PLAN 2004)

Under Development for Spring 2020!!!


This course surveys the key thinkers and important theories that shape sustainable planning and design.


  1. Introduce basic approaches to planning, i.e.: comprehensive, incremental, advocacy, equity, and collaborative, among others

  2. Introduce the key thinkers and movements that have shaped our understanding of planning and urban design

  3. Enhance critical thinking and writing skills


Spring 2020