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Welcome to the Course

Sometimes people talk about cities as if they are outside people’s control, like the weather. We are using the word designing in the name of our course, because everything that happens to shape cities is actually the result of decisions made by governments, business investors, and citizens. Our course is about understanding how and why these decisions get made, and how they can be organized and improved. In other words, the ways cities are designed, and ways people can design them to be better. Almost everyone lives in or near a city, and some people taking this course will just want to find out more about the forces that shape where they live. Other people who enroll in our course will come from the design professions: architects, landscape architects, urban planners, or students in these subjects. Others may come from economics, engineering or the social sciences. We hope some will be government officials or people active in organizations that try to improve their communities. There are courses on line in engineering, mathematics, or the sciences, where you can be tested about whether you have mastered the material. Other courses are about understanding and evaluating something like a book, a film, or a painting, where your responses are clearly shaped by what you are studying. Designing Cities draws on so many subjects, and responds to so many different geographical and social conditions, that we have structured our assignments to draw you into a conversation, or as close to a conversation as we can get with so many participants. We will be asking you to identify and evaluate situations in your own communities based on what you will be learning in our course. We will select a few representative assignments to discuss after each assignment is due, and we hope that you will continue the discussion in the Forums. As you will see from the schedule on the course website, each week will have a theme, and there will be 4 or 5 modules related to that theme you should watch each week. There will be 3 assignments. In addition to the presentations we and our guest lecturers will be making, we will provide you with suggested reading assignments for each module. We think the presentations stand on their own; but, if you have access to the books we suggest, you will be able to deepen your understanding, and find ways to go beyond our course on subjects that particularly interest you. So again, welcome. More and more people in the world are being drawn to cities. How to design cities so they are sustainable and provide a better life for everyone could not be more important: right now and in the future.

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