In Class: We Built This City

Best-laid Plans: Assistant professor Christina Crawford encourages students to think about the long-term impact of urban planning and design.
Stephen Nowland

Course Title

Art History 369R: The Architect and the City

Course Description

Before the discipline of urban design emerged in the 1950s, the task to organize and manage urban growth was taken by architects and engineers. Architectural-scale thinking—that is, thinking about a single building’s look and feel—was therefore extrapolated to the city scale in the decades after the Industrial Revolution. Students read original texts by architects that describe their urban interventions, learn the historical trends in city design and engage in discussions to explore and critique the ways that cities became, and remain, products of their time and culture.

Faculty CV

Christina Crawford practiced as an architect and urban designer before receiving her doctorate in architectural history at Harvard. She became assistant professor in modern and contemporary architecture in the Department of Art History of Emory College of Arts and Sciences in 2016. The coauthor of a book on urban design and gridded cities and author of numerous chapters and articles on early Soviet architecture and planning, Crawford is now working on an archival research initiative about Atlanta’s Techwood Homes, designed and built in the early 1930s. The New Deal housing project was the first urban renewal plan in the US, and one that sought to utilize design as a means to homogenize the demographics of the inner city.

Today's Lecture

A pair of students is presenting their research on the design of New Delhi, comparing it to the 1909 Plan of Chicago, American architect Daniel Burnham’s famous attempt to tackle haphazard growth in that city. The British colonialcapital of India had the same “City Beautiful” design, with wide boulevards and gardens designed to present a grand and powerful city image. One student shows how New Delhi’s design—with its same lack of attention to pedestrians and residents and housing for only the elite—has created an almost impossibly expensive city to live in. An online listing for a 1,000-square foot house, once home to a colonial leader and family, shows a $7.5 million price tag.

Quotes to Note

“You can recognize a City Beautiful plan right away. From the ground, the scale is meant to exude power, so you feel very small in it. Even a person not inherently interested in urban space has experienced cities. Talking about how we experienced them in the past, and how we want to experience them in the future, causes us to ask collectively the critical questions about how we want to live.” — Christina Crawford

Students Say

“I always thought about cities as how you feel in them, insignificant and almost overwhelmed. Now I am definitely passionate about cities, more than I realized, because this class makes me think about how architecture and development, the planning of a community, is actually very close to home.” — Isaac Daley 18C

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