URBS 4/531—Urban Design Principles

Term: Spring, 2005

Instructor: Tony Filipovitch, 106d Morris Hall, (507) 389-5035, 388-2264 (home)

Office Hours: My office hours are posted here

NOTE: Supporting material for this course is available from MSU’s D2L site.



BROLIN, BRENT (2002) The Designer’s Eye NY: W.W.Norton

LASEAU, PAUL (2004) Freehand Sketching: An Introduction NY: W.W.Norton

SUTHERLAND, MARTHA (1999) Modelmaking: A Basic Guide NY: W.W.Norton

ATHEARN, F.J. (1998) How to Improve the Quality of Photographs for National Register Nominations. Washington, DC: US Department of Interior, National Park Service, National Register, History and Education. Available online at http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/publications/bulletins/photobul/

Required for Graduate Students, Recommended for Undergraduate Students

URBAN DESIGN ASSOCIATES (2004) The Architectural Pattern Book. NY: W.W.Norton


Recommended for all

BARNETT, JONATHAN (2004) Redesigning Cities. Washington, DC: APA Press.


Course Objectives:

This course is designed to sensitize you to the elements of urban places which make cities great and memorable.

By the end of the term you will be able to:

1.      Read and speak intelligently to others about the elements of urban space and the relationships it creates among city people;

2.      Develop ideas of your own about “great good places,” and the pleasures of place in cities;

3.      Use a variety of techniques (visual as well as conceptual) to explore the city and test one’s ideas;

4.      Appreciate “beauty” and “place,” and be able to describe and defend them to others.


Instructional Methodology and Teaching Strategies:

A variety of techniques will be employed throughout the course. While there will be reading and lectures and tests, this course is heavily weighted to practice and experience and capturing those experiences in written and visual terms. Above all, my teaching style is based on an "adult-centered" model which assumes that you are active participants, each responsible for your own learning, and I am a facilitator and resource who helps you advance your project. My goal for myself as a teacher is to "take you someplace you would never before have gone alone."




You are expected to read the assigned sections of the texts prior to their due date (see Calendar below). In general, one day of the week will be devoted to discussing your reading and to lecture & presentations, one day to projects of various sorts (and discussing what one is learning from them), and one day to working on your skills in visual presentation of ideas. Notice that discussion is central—I would much rather have a good discussion than have you listen to a good lecture. Also notice that the skills session is not scheduled; you may do it anytime you wish—but remember to schedule the time every week (I won’t ask you to document the time, but it will be evident in the quality of your work).

Design Journals:

If you are not already familiar with journaling, you will be by the end of this term. Each of you will maintain a journal of observations, ideas, reflections, and conclusions. For this course, the journal will focus on the elements of urban places and what makes them great and memorable. For many of you, this will be done mostly through words, but I expect each of you to practice and to develop your “eye” and your “hand”—the visual image and your ability to capture it. You must make at least three entries in your journal each week (1 for the readings/discussion, 1 for the project, 1 for your “practice”), although I encourage you to carry it with you everywhere and make daily (if not more frequent) entries. You will submit pages from your journals for review at least 3 times during the Semester (see the Calendar). I will comment on the first two submissions, but the grade will be assigned only upon the last submission.


Yes, Virginia, there will be tests. Two of them (see Calendar below). Their purpose will be to provide a summary and review of the course. The tests will be computer-based (using D2L—look under “Exams”) and can be taken at your convenience during that week. They will be “open-book,” but be aware that they will also be timed (if you know what you are looking for and where to find it, the book might help; but if you have not previously studied the material, you will run out of time).

Final Project:

The proof of what you have learned in this course will be your ability to create a model of the campus and its environs.

        Working as a group, you will create a scale model of the University neighborhood (Glenwood to Woodhaven Circle, Stoltzman to Pohl Rds.).

        You will each select one of the campus buildings and build a scale model of that building and place your models into a scale model of the campus.

        Using your drawings, photographs, and other models, as a group you will present to the Campus Planning Committee your recommendations for the design of the campus, consistent with the standards and expectations set out in the Campus Master Plan.

Graduate Students’ Duties

Graduate students will also present their own “Architectural Pattern Book” by the end of the course. In addition, they will be expected to be the team leaders for the group projects done in the class.


Course Expectations:

Attendance & Class Participation:

Students play an important role in educating and challenging each other. This can only happen if there is consistent attendance. I expect you to attend. I may take the class roll. Unexcused absence (prior notification is required—even if I am not available, my voice mail and e-mail always are) can result in loss of points toward one’s grade.


There are 100 points for the course, divided as follows:

Undergrad Grad

1) Tests (2 @ 25 pts.) 50 40

2) Final Project 20 20

3) Design Journal 30 20

4) Architectural Pattern Book 20


The final grade may be based on a curve, but students can expect at least an A if they achieve 90, a B with 80, etc.

Other Matters:

Extra Credit: In general, I do not encourage extra credit in this class. I would rather that you put the extra effort into your regular assignments. In the event of very unusual circumstances, a maximum of 10 points may be earned by prior arrangement with me.

This class is based on a series of building-blocks; you cannot proceed to the next stage until you have completed the prior stage. You will also be working together as a group throughout the course on the final project. Therefore, all assignments are due on the assigned date. There will be no makeups except for very unusual circumstances. No extensions or makeups are allowed without prior permission.

You may use any resource for your coursework, as long as you identify your sources. (Failure to do so is plagiarism and could result in an F for the course). While you may work on an assignment with classmates, you may not turn in identical (or essentially the same) reports unless the project is specifically identified as a "group project."

Every attempt will be made to accommodate qualified students with disabilities. If you area student with a documented disability, please contact me as early in the semester as possible to discuss the necessary accommodations, and/or contact the Disability Services Office at 507-389-2825 (V) or 1-800-627-3529 (MRS/TTY).

Course Calendar

Note: For availability of MH112, click here

Week of

Wednesday Discussion

Friday Projects



Intro to course/syllabus

Final project assignments & Drawing

Freehand Sketching

Contour drawing


Principles of Design

(Clemence, Smith, Whyte)

Adobe Photoshop (computer lab)

Negative space &

Sketch media


A vocabulary for talking about design (Clay, Pattern Language)


Photographs for National Register

Construction: Frames


Kinesiology (Hall, Festinger, Human Territories)

Model making



Construction: Shapes


Urbanism as a Way of Life (Wirth & Chicago School) 

Landscape Evaluation

Tone: Shade &



Designing the Public Environment

Anthrophysical form

Journals due

Tone: Shadow &



Design Review Process

Mankato Design Standards

Campus neighborhood model

Redesigning Cities


Pattern Books

Test 1—Design Principles

. Architectural Pattern Book


Great Good Places

Facades & Corners

Designer’s Eye


Sense of Place

Edges & Meeting the Ground

Loukaki “Genius Loci”


Social Conception of Space (Suttles, Hummons)

Meeting the Sky & Openings

Journals due



Images of Place

Campus model preview



New Urbanism

Structure & Details



Timeless Way of Building

A Room with a View




Present Final Project

Test 2—Design Review & Good Places

Final Journal & Architectural Pattern Book due


Course Evaluation






This is a selection of books & articles I will be referring to in the course. It could serve as a starting point for your own further reading & research:




2004 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 7 January 2005