Designing the City Concentration

This concentration allows students to focus on the physical design of communities through coursework on urban morphology, the built environment, real estate development, historic preservation, graphic communications, and urban design. This concentration enables students to better understand the forces that shape urban land-use and how cities take shape over time and provides students with a rich understanding of the context for contemporary urban-development projects. Students will also learn design-related visual presentation skills to enable them to present plans for contemporary cities and to work in interdisciplinary teams on site plans and competitions.

Students interested in land use and urban design may be interested in participating in the ULI Hines competition. A preparatory class is held during the winter break. In addition, students may also be interested in offerings from the Cornell Baker Program in Real Estate, design and environmental analysis, and landscape architecture. Depending on their interest and career goals, some students may be interested in pursuing a dual degree with either the landscape architecture or Baker Program in Real Estate. Students should discuss some of these options with their advisor.

In this concentration, students learn to:

  • Read and understand the physical character of place and the impacts of urban systems (transportation, infrastructure, etc.) on the form of cities.
  • Work with a range of other design disciplines, including architecture and landscape architecture.
  • Evaluate and describe the significance of cultural and natural resources, and their role in making place.
  • Utilize various graphic and design tools, both manual and digital.
  • Understand the historical development of cities and the processes behind contemporary urban change.

Students interested in designing the city may wish to select classes from the following list:

  • CRP 5072 Land Use, Environmental Planning, and Urban Design WorkshopLand Use and Environmental Planning workshop courses focus on the forces and actions that directly affect the physical character, transformation, rehabilitation, and preservation of natural landscapes, cities, and regions. Participants provide technical assistance to communities, and have the opportunity to work with communities in resolving critical planning issues. Topics may include development of land use and natural conservation plans, community redevelopment plans, design and analysis of public spaces, and strategies for making communities more environmentally and economically sustainable.
  • CRP 5190 History and Theory of Urban Spatial DevelopmentWe live in an urban majority world, with diverse patterns of urbanization and types of urban places. Cities are not just nodes on transaction networks, or physical collections of build form specific to a context and global movements, or diverse places that represent a mix of cultures over time. They are political assemblages in which formal and informal institutions of governance are forged and continue to be shaped as policies change and morph over time. Various processes impacting societies shape the cities where we live, work, and play: ranging from climate change, shifting migration patterns, and large-scale population movements to changes in geo-political power and the technologies of infrastructure, communication, and manufacturing. But what constitutes the city? What concepts allow us to understand how cities grow, shrink, or expand, and shivel or thrive? This course seeks to introduce you to the broad contours of an interdisciplinary body of work that aims to theorize the city. Using a format of readings, lectures, and discussions, we seek to become familiar with core perspectives of well-established traditions in urban theory that emerges from perspectives on city economy, spatial development, environment, infrastructure, social life, cultural experience, urban politics, and interventions.
  • CRP 5348 Design ConnectDesign Connect Workshop is the for-credit option for students participating in the local and regional projects solicited, reviewed and executed by the independent student organization of the same name.  It provides planning and design services to upstate New York communities. Student teams engage community partners to create conceptual designs, with research and analysis, participatory visioning and design charrettes, town and master planning for public spaces. Course can be repeated for credit.
  • CRP 5530 Concepts and Methods of Land Use PlanningThis course provides an introduction to land use planning methods, especially those that are used in comprehensive planning by local governments and regional framework plans. The course surveys analytical and participatory methods to shape land use and urban form and to guide infrastructure provision in order to achieve more sustainable urban systems. Land use planning concepts and methods are included at other scales as well, including statewide frameworks for Smart Growth and small area plans. Other skills include the application of planning support tools and geodesign methods, drafting and applying land use regulations such as zoning and Smart Codes; creation of natural resource inventories, conservation areas, and green infrastructure plans, and planning at the nexus of transportation and land use. Includes methods of participation in land use planning processes.
  • CRP 5560 Creating the Built EnvironmentReal estate professionals and city and regional planners play a vital role in creating the built environment. Understanding the physical form of real estate, and the rules that govern that form, is critically important if one is to meaningfully engage in the practice of real estate development. In this course, we examine in detail the physical form of the built environment, and students gain an understanding of the principles and organizing strategies that underlie it. We examine the following building types in depth: residential, retail, hotel and mixed use. Students exit this course with a deeper understanding of why the built environment takes the shape it does and the opportunities for innovations.
  • CRP 5600 Documentation for PreservationMethods of identifying, recording, collecting, processing, and analyzing information dealing with historic and architecturally significant structures, sites, and objects. Students are assigned common problems in documentation at various scales and propose solutions.
  • CRP 5610 Historic Preservation Planning Workshop: SurveysCovers techniques for the preparation of surveys of historic structures and districts; identification of American architectural styles, focusing on local historical resources, state and federal historic preservation guidance. Lectures and training sessions emphasize cross cultural training with individuals and community organizations.
  • CRP 5620 Perspectives on PreservationIntroduction to the theory, history, and practice of Historic Preservation Planning in America, with an emphasis on understanding the development and implementation of a preservation project. The course discusses projects ranging in scale and character from individual buildings to districts to cultural landscapes; as well as topics such as preservation economics, government regulations, significance and authenticity, and the politics of identifying and conserving cultural and natural resources.
  • CRP 5640 Building Materials ConservationA survey of the development of building materials in the United States, chiefly during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and a review of the measures that might be taken to conserve them. Students prepare a Historic Structure Report (HSR) on a property of their own choosing to be given to the site owner. The HSR includes historical research, a detailed written description, building condition analysis, recommendations for treatment, and a cost estimate.  
  • CRP 5660 Planning and Preservation Practice: Urban Field TripStudents participate in field study of city planning, preservation, economic and community development, and real estate issues in large eastern U.S. cities. Preparatory lecture(s) and a brief summary essay are required.
  • CRP 5820 Principles of Site Planning and Urban DesignPhysical planning involves planning the physical dimensions of the built environment at the site, district, city, and metropolitan scale: where buildings are constructed, infrastructure is placed, and land use allocated. This course provides a broad overview of physical planning.
  • CRP 5850 Special Topics in Planning: Urban Design Principles and MethodsThis course addresses pertinent issues relative to planning. Topics vary each semester.
  • CRP 6580 Residential and Commercial DevelopmentExplores the residential and commercial-development process from site acquisition through delivery of the finished product. Topics include market feasibility, land planning and acquisition, product selection and design, project financing and feasibility, schedule and budgetary controls, contracting and construction, marketing, and sales activities. Composition of the development project team is discussed. Classes are supplemented by visiting professionals. The course includes a semester-long project based on an actual property and market opportunity.
  • CRP 6594 Special Topics: Real Estate CompetitionsThis invitation-only case competition requires the analysis of a recent real estate transaction executed by a leading global real estate firm. The student contestants compete against the nineteen other teams from across the country before judges who are senior executives from leading real estate companies, advancing learning, networking, and recruiting.
  • CRP 6650 Preservation Planning and Urban ChangeExamination of fundamental planning concepts and issues as they relate to historic preservation. Neighborhood revitalization, federal housing programs, the role of public and private institutions, displacement, and other social issues are among the primary topics.
  • CRP 7850 City and Regional Futures: Planning Practice, Policy and DesignThis colloquium brings domestic and international experts to Cornell to talk about research and practice aimed at shaping the future of communities and regions. It includes an array of topics that span urban policy, planning practice and research, design, and applied research on technology and society. Course can be repeated for credit.