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Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Cities: Communities and the Built Environment   Tags: urban studies  

these lessons explore some of the basic ideas of planning and building cities throughout history in addition to exploring the relationship between the built environment and communities
Last Updated: Jul 22, 2014 URL: http://germantownfriends.libguides.com/content.php?pid=608309 Print Guide RSS Updates

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planning and building cities from ancient to modern times

 1. brief description: The students will be assigned readings that will introduce them to some of the ways cities have been planned and built in different places and times. Students will write short response pieces to these readings and participate in class discussions on the readings. The discussion questions included below could be used as prompts for either/both the written response pieces or/and class discussions.

   a. reading: The City Reader: Part 1: The Evolution of Cities: Introduction (LeGates, City Reader, pg. 21-24)

      i. discussion questions:

         >Describe the characteristics noted in this piece of ancient cities in general, ancient Greek cities, and ancient Rome in terms of the built environment and          social systems.

         >Describe the characteristics of Medieval European cities noted in this piece in terms of the built environment and social systems.

         >Compare and contrast these descriptions of ancient and Medieval cities to your experience of cities today.

   b. reading: David Macaulay: City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction (pg 5-15)

      i. discussion questions:

         >What need, values, or beliefs did the planners take into account when planning the city? How are these needs, values, and beliefs manifested in the built          environment? Is there anything you think they should have taken into account that they did not?

   c. reading Rutland, Jonathan, See Inside An Ancient Greek Town: The Town: pg. 7-9

   d. reading: Peter Connolly and Hazel Dodge: The Ancient City: Athens: The Keys to Survival: pg.14-21

      i. discussion questions:

         >What need, values, or beliefs are represented in this description of the built environment of ancient Athens? How are they represented in the built          environment?

         >What changes to the built environment are described? What lead to these changes?

   e. video: “City of Parks”: Philadelphia: The Great Experiment

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz2I4Hdfex8

      i. discussion questions:

         >What were some characteristics of Philadelphia when Yellow Fever struck?

         >What spurred the creation of more open park spaces?

   f. video: “Lenape Land Management”: Philadelphia: The Great Experiment

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl1ShMQAC04

      i. discussion questions

         >Compare/contrast the description of Lenape land management from this video with what we have read about planning and creating a ciy. What are some possible benefits and drawbacks of each?

 

insiders and outsiders in the city

1. brief description: For this part of the unit students will do readings and have discussions on two different angles from which one can view a city: from the inside and from the outside. Students will write short response pieces to these readings and participate in class discussions on the readings. The discussion questions included below could be used as prompts for either/both the written response pieces or/and class discussions. Students will also be assigned to conduct interviews with community members about insiders and outsiders in the community.

   a. readings: Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities: Ch 2: “The Uses of Sidewalks: Safety”: pg 50-53 – sidewalk as a ballet; Ibn Battuta, “Constantinople the Great”    (LeGates, City Reader pg 53-55)

      i. discussion questions:

         >What do you think makes someone an “insider”? What about an “outsider”?

         >Ibn Battuta could be thought of as an outsider in Constantinople because he is not from there, are there other ways that someone might be an outsider in a place?

         >What privileges and powers might“insiders” have? What disadvantages might they have? What about “outsiders”? 

 

public and private spaces in the city

1. brief description: The students will be assigned readings that will prompt them to think about public and private spaces in cities. Students will write short response pieces to these readings and participate in class discussions on the readings. The discussion questions included below could be used as prompts for either/both the written response pieces or/and class discussions.

   a. reading: Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities: Ch. 3: “The Uses of Sidewalks: Contact”

      i. discussion questions:

         >What do you think should define a “public” space versus a “private” space?

         >According to Jacobs, what are some of the functions of public spaces in cities? Private spaces?

         >What differences does Jacobs cite between cities and non-cities in terms of public and private space?

   b. reading: Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities: Ch. 5: “The Uses of Neighborhood Parks”

      i. discussion questions:

         >What qualities does Jacobs think make a park a better or worse place to be?

         >What do you think makes a good park a good park? What about a bad park?

   c. readings: City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction : The Forum (pg. 54-58) and Central Market (pg 59-65), An Ancient Greek Town : The Agora (pg. 10)

      i. discussion questions:

         >What are some of the reasons someone might go to the forum? What might one do there?

         >What are some of the reasons someone might go to the central market? What could one get there?

         >The agora was a part of most ancient Greek cities. What are some of the reasons someone might go to the agora? Who might one see there?

         >Is there any part of a current city you can think of that reminds you of any of these public spaces? How is this part of a current city similar or different from these ancient          cities?

   d. reading: American Planning Association: Great Places in America: Public Spaces: “Characteristics and Guidelines of Great Public Spaces” and examples

https://www.planning.org/greatplaces/spaces/characteristics.htm

      i. discussion questions:

         >So what does make a great place (according to the American Planning Association)? Do you agree with these criteria? How do they compare to Jane Jacobs's ideas of what          makes a public space successful?

      ii. assignment: Pick one of the Great Places In America for 2013. Explain what makes it great according to the APA. Discuss your opinion on whether or not you think Jane       Jacobs would think it was great.

   e. classroom visitor: There are often products in progress to develop public and private spaces in communities. People involved in local development projects such as these could be great speakers in class. The instructor could reach out to local development organizations such as CDCs and other community groups to learn about possible projects such as this. 

 

culminating project

One possibility for a culminating project would be for students to choose a space that is public within a certain community and describe its physical and social features from both an insider and an outsider perspective. For the outsider perspective piece students could also interview someone who might be considered an insider in order to include a sense of exploration and discovery from an outsider's perspective of an insider's perspective. Students could choose places such as public parks, certain streets, public libraries, or even particular areas within their home or school that could be considered the “public” space within that very specific community.   

 

social dynamics and function of cities

1. brief description: In this section of the unit, students will read about and discuss different ideas of the social dynamics and functions that shape cities. Students will write short response pieces to these readings and participate in class discussions on the readings. The discussion questions included below could be used as prompts for either/both the written response pieces or/and class discussions.

   a. readings: Lewis Mumford: “What is a City?” (LeGates, City Reader, pg 92-94)

      i. discussion questions

         >Mumford quotes John Stow's definition of a city. What does Stow describe as a major outcome of people living in cities?

         >What are “primary groups” and “purposive associations”? What are their relationships to the city?

         >What are the “essential physical means of a city's existance”? What are the “essential social means”?

         >Mumford states that in the city, “social facts are primary, and the physical environment...must be subservient to [the city's] social needs.” What is he stating to be the          relationship between people and the built environment?

         >Why does Mumford believe that cities need to be limited in size?

         > As we saw in previous readings, cities are often planned in certain ways to meet certain physical needs. Mumford argues that social and emotional needs also need to be taken into account when planning cities. What types of social or emotional needs does he mention or allude to? How does he suggest these be planned for?

   b. readings: The City Reader: Editors' Introduction to “The Polis” from The Greeks (1951) by H.D.F. Kitto (LeGates, City Reader pg 43-44); “The Polis” from The Greeks by H.D.F. Kitto (pg 64-top of 65, 67-69, 70-72, 73-75)

      i. discussion questions:

         >In the editor's introduction, it is mentioned that certain groups were exclued from the life of the polis in certain ways. Who is mentioned and how were they said to be          excluded?

         >In the editor's introduction , the editor's point out that Kitto rejects geographic and economic explanations for why the polis arose in Greece. What explanation does he          embrace instead? Please find a point in Kitto's own writing where he provides examples that illustrates this.

         >Though Kitto does not seem to agree with them, he does describe the geographic and economic explanations for why the polis arose in Greece. What are these          explanations?

         >Kitto offers many different possible meanings for the Greek word “polis.” Please describe at least three. Compare a fourth to your own experience of city life or understanding          of city life today.  

 

Sources

"Characteristics and Guidelines of Great Public Spaces." American Planning Association, 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 3 June 2014.    <https://www.planning.org/greatplaces/spaces/characteristics.htm>.

"City of Parks." Philadelphia: The Great Experiment, n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2014.    <http://www.historyofphilly.com/media/#http%3A%2F%2Fi.historyofphilly.portalbounce.com%2Fen%2Fuser-media.html%3Fv%3D661>.

Connolly, Peter , and Heather Dodge. The Ancient City: Life in Classical Athens and Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1992. Print.

Kitto, H.D.F.. "The Polis."The Greeks. 1951. Reprint. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd, 1962. . Print.

LeGates, Richard T. , and Frederic Stout. The City Reader. 3rd ed . New York : Routledge, 2003. Print.

"Lenape Land Management." Philadelphia: The Great Experiment, n.d. Web. 15 June 2014.    <http://www.historyofphilly.com/media/#http%3A%2F%2Fi.historyofphilly.portalbounce.com%2Fen%2Fuser-media.html%3Fv%3D2748>.

Macaulay, David. City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1974. Print.

Rutland, Jonathan .See Inside An Ancient Greek Town. New York, NY: Warwick Press, 1979. Print.

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