CCHU9048 Humanities
The City: Histories of Urbanism and the Built Environment

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]

Course Description

What is a city? Through what processes is our built environment constituted? How do we dwell in our cities and how do different kinds of urban space shape our sense of place and community belonging? This course will explore practices of urbanism across a range of contexts from antiquity to the present day. By doing so it will allow students to develop insights into the social relations and human struggles that have been produced by, and continue to produce, particular types of built forms in different places over time. In the broadest sense, the course will use urbanism as a lens to understand the relationship between urban forms and the complex, multiple processes that constitute cities and their urban milieus.

The course content will be organized around sets of case studies, with each focusing on a specific theme that indicates particular continuities and congruencies between cities of different locations and time periods. The discussion throughout the course will engage with questions related to contemporary urbanization and consider how historical knowledge may impart a better understanding of the challenges we are facing in the global present.

Assignments of this course include a series of exercises that combine historical research, visual analysis and creative writing. A one-page study aid that outlines the lecture content will be distributed to students ahead of lecture each week.

[Students will sign up for one half-day field trip scheduled during Reading Week.]

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

    1. Become familiar with the urban heritage of the past and locate built environments in their historical, social and cultural contexts.
    2. Analyze urban processes from different perspectives by thinking across time and geographical scales.
    3. Develop wide-ranging curiosity about cities and the different peoples that inhabit them.
    4. Develop a critical awareness of the complex forces that shape the forms and norms of the environment and the ongoing construction of urban culture and social milieu.
    5. Strengthen the ability for teamwork and communication skills.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 22
Tutorials 10
Fieldwork / Visits 4
Reading / Self-study 44
Assessment: Project assignments 60
Total: 140

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Tutorial participation 15
Project assignments 65
In-class assessments 20

Required Reading

  • Bristol, K. G. (1991). The Pruitt-Igoe Myth. Journal of Architectural Education33(3), 163-171.
  • Çelik, Z. (1997). The casbah and the marine quarter. Urban forms and colonial confrontations: Algiers under French rule. University of California Press. [pp. 31-38]  
  • Chu, C. (2012). Between typologies and representation: The Tong Lau and the discourse of the ‘Chinese House.’ In M. Rajagopalan & M. Desai (Eds.), Colonial frames, Nationalist histories (pp. 257-263).
  • Chu, C. (2013). Combating nuisance: Sanitation, regulation, and the politics of property in colonial Hong Kong. In R. Peckam & D. Pomfret (Eds.), Imperial contagions: Medicine and the cultures of planning in Asia (pp. 22-35). Hong Kong University Press.
  • Davies, A. R. (2012). Points of origin: The social impact of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. In B. Bankoff, et al (Eds.), Flammable cities: Urban conflagration and the making of the modern world (pp. 273-289). UW Press.
  • Donald, J. (2005). City. In T. Bennett, et al. (Ed.), New Keywords (pp. 32-35). Blackwell.
  • Fishman, R. (1982). Urban utopias in the twentieth century: Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier. The MIT Press. [pp. 3-20]
  • Ganjavie, A. (2012). Role of utopia for design of future cities. Studies in Literature and Language, 5(3), 11-13.
  • Hall, P. (1998). How the Romans lived. Cities in Civilization. Pantheon Books. [pp. 626-630]
  • Heng, C. K. (1994). Kaifeng and Yangzhou: The birth of the commercial street. In Z. Celik, et al (Eds.), Streets: Critical perspectives on public Space. University of California Press. [pp. 45-54]
  • Home, R. (1997). The inconvenience felt by Europeans: Racial segregation, its rise and fall. Planting and planning: The making of British colonial cities. FN Spon. [pp. 117-122]
  • Knox, P. L. (2011). Better by Design. Cities and Design. Routledge. [pp. 82-91]
  • Knox, P. L. (2011). Cities, design, and urban life. Cities and Design. Routledge. [pp. 19-21]
  • Kostof, S. (1991). The grid in the ancient world. The city shaped. Urban patterns and meanings through history. New York; Boston; London: Bulfinch Press. [pp. 103-108]
  • Lee, L. (1999). Remapping Shanghai. Shanghai modern: The flowering of a new urban culture in China, 1930-1945. Harvard University Press. [pp. 7-17]
  • Leung, P. K. (1998). The Walled City in Kowloon: A space we all shared. In M.P.Y. Cheung (Ed.), Hong Kong Collage: Contemporary Stories and Writing (pp. 34-39). Oxford University Press.
  • Robinson, J., et al. (2016). Working, housing, urbanizing. Springer. [pp. 5-10, 45-55, 55-59]

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr C.L. Chu
Division of Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 3917 7690
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr C.L. Chu
Division of Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 3917 7690