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
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
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.