Transformations I 2021/22. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Cities and Urban Processes - Lecture

Core Subjects

Transformations I & II combined are the whole first year mandatory urban theory module within the urban design graduate programme. In the winter term the course is split into a lecture and a reading seminar, the summer schedule centres on combining theoretical and practical knowledges around the concept of public space – as a counter balance to much of the project work in Urban Design which is usually centred on housing.

Based mainly on the academic disciplines of critical urban geography, planning theory, and urban sociology, the module has three key aims. First, it gives students from different undergraduate studies a collective background to navigate the interdisciplinary academic field of urban studies. The lecture in the winter term focuses on conveying the importance of – interlinked – historical and theoretical thinking, while at the same time giving a broad overview of relevant schools of thought regarding the central characteristics defining the urban. The close reading and collective discussion of key texts in the seminar allows students to bring their specific understandings of urban theories and concepts to class and thus puts their preconceptions on the table. The reading lists represent the impossibility of teaching relevant classics (ranging from Friedrich Engels to Doreen Massey, from Henri Lefebvre to Iris Marion Young) and not excluding underrepresented knowledges in the academic canon (particularly queer-/feminist and de/post-colonial approaches, hence we read for example: Gavin Brown, Ananya Roy, AbdouMaliq Simone, and Gill Valentine).

The second aim of the module is to supports students in developing their academic reading and writing skills. This refers not only to reading and analysing academic texts. We also encourage students to experiment with peer review processes, the students write different types of texts during the course of the year and they receive detailed feedback on draft papers and have the opportunity to improve the paper after that.

The third aim of the module is rather an aspiration: to make theoretical thinking part of the toolbox for students of urban design beyond the theory class. It is set out to collectively recognise that urban transformations are always led by assumptions around what ‘the good city’ is. Thus, if we want to study and contribute to the transformation of cities we need to choose specific knowledges to build upon. This is put into practice through the method of in-field presentations. Hereby students are asked to discuss the studied texts and concepts outside of the classroom, in urban space. This is where their theoretically informed presentations touch the ground and interact with the social constellation of their choice.


The course introduces key positions and debates in urban theory that allow conceptualizing what cities are and how they function. This is linked with an overview of critical issues and challenges in historical and contemporary urban development. Key phases of modern urban design and planning are reflected in terms of their linkages to wider processes of capitalist urbanization, formations of state power, social struggle and cultural change. We also explore how design and planning interventions in the city have evolved in terms of changing sites and targets, goals and ideologies drawing on interdisciplinary literature from architecture and planning as well as urban social science and urban history.


Mittwochs 10:15-11:45 Uhr


M.A. Eva Kuschinski


Academic Staff