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

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth (SCCE)

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 explores practices of urbanism across a range of contexts from antiquity to the present day. By doing so it allows 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 uses 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 is 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. Discussions throughout the course 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 study aid that outlines the lecture content is provided for students ahead of the lecture each week.

[Students are required to join one 3-hour local field trip scheduled in weeks 4 and 5.]

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

First semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Fieldwork / Visits 3
Reading / Self-study 40
Assessment: Project assignments 57
Total: 130

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Project assignments 80
In-class assessments 20

Required Reading

  • Badger, E. (2012). The evolution of urban planning in 10 diagrams. Citylab. From https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-11-09/the-evolution-of-urban-planning-in-10-diagrams
  • Chu, C. (2013). Combating nuisance. In R. Peckam & D. Pomfret (Eds.), Imperial contagions: Medicine and the cultures of planning in Asia (pp. 22-35). Hong Kong University Press.
  • Chu, C. (2021). Building colonial Hong Kong: Speculative development and segregation in the city. Routledge. [A dual-city in the making; Constructing enclaves].
  • Home, R. (2013). Of planting and planning: The making of British colonial cities. FN Spon. [The inconvenience felt by Europeans: Racial segregation, its rise and fall]
  • Knox, P. L. (2011). Cities and design. Routledge. [Cities, Design, and Urban Life; Better by Design]
  • Lee, L. (1999). Shanghai modern: The flowering of a new urban culture in China, 1930-1945. Harvard University Press. [Remapping Shanghai]
  • 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.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

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