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PLA 6550 - FALL 2001



Date of last revision: 8/19/01

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Prof. Thomas Vietorisz
(212) 674-4366
Office hours: After class



TA: Ted Bardacke
(212) 663-8437
Office hours: By Appointment

Class Meetings
Tuesdays 6-8 PM
Class location: Avery 412

Thursdays 6-8 PM
Lab location: Avery 412



The formal objective of the course will be:

-- Developing a broad historical and theoretical context within which specific big-city and regional planning and urban design problems, both in the U.S. and abroad, are embedded.

-- Dealing with the cultural, political, economic, and ecological aspects of the current trend toward a global information economy, emphasizing how cities and regions worldwide, at different levels of development and with different cultural identities, may be affected by this trend.

-- Showing how this broader perspective can make for more viable urban/regional plans and designs.

-- Offering students experience in the practical application of this broader perspective, by work on individual or team projects which may either be self-contained or may complement other departmental studios or workshops.

In more informal terms, the course will aim to involve students in issues that arise because planning is affected, more drastically than most other lines of professional work, by the forces of market fundamentalism. As planners, we recognize the growing reaction against the hubris of market-based, corporate-implemented globalization that threatens to overrun all community values, including those of democratic decisionmaking about the future. This kind of globalization is seen as leading to economic and social polarization within individual societies as well as among different societies worldwide. Yet, as planners we can be easily infected by the opposite kind of hubris, namely that as members of a professional elite, small groups of us can guide societies reliably into the future.

Personal commitment to a genuinely open society is the only principle we can rely on to define our identities within the profession in a way that avoids both kinds of hubris. And only from such a personal perspective will students now entering the profession be able to cope with the shifting future balance between planning practices, often reflecting a narrow national orientation, and international market forces.

The course will also aim to offer support to students in their efforts to build professional networks, in two ways:

-- Informal backing for the international student planning network, PlaNet, which is now active at universities in 15 European cities and growing fast; for Trading Places, PlaNet's associated local student group at Columbia University; and Planners Network, a U.S.based organization committed to social justice in planning . The Columbia group has organized travelling conferences in Europe and the U.S. (Summer, 2000) and in Asia (Summer 2001). Initiatives are under discussion for starting an international knowledge bank of planning projects and an on-line guide to planning courses worldwide.

-- Emulation of the M.I.T. free audit model which involves creating public web sites for posting materials like lecture notes, problem sets, syllabuses, exams, simulations, even video lectures. Expansion of the present Columbia PLAN6550 website will continue, to include space for the discussion of all issues, not only by students in the course but also by visitors, primarily students in other planning courses worldwide and recent graduates. To facilitate contacts for such broad discussion, the course website will be progressively linked to the websites of other planning courses, with priority for the ones that also follow the free audit model.


The course provides an introductory perspective for both the development and the international sector specializations within the Master's Program. It is acceptable for partial fulfillment of the requirements for either of these two sectors. The course has no prerequisites and may be taken by incoming first-year students; it may also be taken in the second year. The lab offers the opportunity for students to discuss and learn from each other's projects and to clarify their understanding of class topics. The Spring semester course, PLA6560, Sustainable Global Development,, is a continuation and expansion of several key topics, with an emphasis on ecological, social/cultural, and urban sustainability. Students taking the Fall semester course may or may not, as they wish, take the Spring semester follow-on course.

The course has no prerequisites; no theoretical knowledge is presupposed. Theoretical approaches will be introduced and discussed to the extent that they offer insight into issues of development and are helpful in interpreting policy and planning problems or clarifying similarities and differences between specific regions and urban areas. Standard economic development theories will be referred to only briefly. Materials pertaining to the United States will be introduced for purposes of international comparisons.

The lab component of the course will give students the opportunity to take considerable initiative on when and how to get systematic feedback on their individual or team projects. Students will usually make presentations and chair discussions of their own projects. All lab activities will be coordinated by a student committee working with the TA.

| Introduction | Assignments | Bibliography | Site Map | Syllabus | Web Resources