IHP Cities in the 21st Century: People, Planning, and Politics (Fall Option 2)

"IHP has taught me that everything is a learning experience if you make it one—the street you are walking down, the waiter at your restaurant, the people you are waiting in line with, the advertisements on display, the signs and street lights that are visible, the sidewalks. Everything provides different information about the city."

-- Rachel Egan, Spring 2010, Amherst College

Explore how geography, politics, and culture affect whether people can thrive in cities.

The Cities in the 21st Century program examines the intentional and natural forces that guide the development of the world's cities. It combines an innovative urban studies academic curriculum with fieldwork involving public agencies, planners, elected officials, NGOs, and grassroots groups in important world cities where exciting changes are taking place.

Students learn how to "read a city"—an iterative process that hones the ability to observe, question, document, research, and communicate—leading to a better understanding of the interconnected social, physical, economic, environmental, and political systems that affect urban environments.

Students examine how the structure of a city enhances or impedes growth. They learn who exercises power in cities and where power comes from. And they examine the role of state and local government in formulating development policies in a changing world economy and the challenges public policymakers face in light of increasing inequity.

IHP's comparative approach enables students to analyze and contrast major issues across cities and to track how concerns manifest themselves in the planning process, and ultimately, in a course of action.

Key Questions

Student interaction.

  • Though human needs may be similar around the globe, why does a city's ability to satisfy those needs vary?
  • How do people create a sense of place, of community, of urban identity?
  • What historical and sociocultural contexts frame the opportunities, constraints, and uncertainties of urban life?
  • What must be done—and by whom—to move toward ecologically sustainable cities?
  • What are the opportunities for political action by individuals, community organizations, social movements, or even local governments to shape city life?

The Cities program was recently featured in the Architectural League’s Urban Omnibus. Read “Learning to Read the Contemporary City” by IHP traveling faculty member Andrew Wade.
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Credits: 16

Duration: Fall, 16 weeks

Program Sites:
New York City, New York, USA; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Dakar, Senegal; Ahmedabad, India.

Prerequisites: Previous college-level coursework and/or other preparation in urban studies, anthropology, political science, or other related fields is strongly recommended but not required. Learn More...


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