ABE 004

Cities and urban regions can be seen and analysed as products of historical processes of networking between other cities and urban regions on a variety of different scales. Some would even say – like the historians McNeill and McNeill - that human history can be interpreted as the weaving of webs between the places where humans live right from the moment when agriculture made the formation of cities possible, about 11,000 years ago.

The present pattern of urbanisation in many parts of the world has a history which goes back at least 1,000 years and can be interpreted as a layered system of different cities taking the lead in different periods of time. The current hierarchy of cities seems to be dominated by a limited number of much-discussed global cities.

What is typical of 20th- and 21st-century cities is that they have become truly regional manifestations: nearby cities have become vast agglomerations or dense, polycentric networks of individuals cities and town interspersed by a large variety of spaces and places with different functions and a different morphology. This has lead to a bewildering vocabulary of concepts to catch up with the modern ‘metropolis’, from ‘megalopolis’ to ‘patchwork metropolis’. 

The Course

The aim of this course of eight seminars is to help students engage with concepts such as Regionalization, Globalization, the City, Society, Public Domain, Territory, Network, etc. The aim of examining these concepts is to see how they can be usefully applied to urban studies.

By the end of this course students will be expected to demonstrate the ability to meaningfully engage with concepts such as the ones listed above (and others) but also, and more importantly, show that they are able to formulate their own ways of thinking about them. They will do this via a series of seminar discussions on set readings (students are free to propose their own). Students will then be expected to take a position on one or more of the topics and develop them into a position paper which they will present in draft form to receive feedback from the course leaders and their classmates.

For the seminars the students are expected to have read the readings; actively participate in the group discussions; demonstrate they have understood the readings by taking positions of their own; and finally, critique one another’s positions.

Course Outline

  1. Introduction.
  2. Public Domain. Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man, Part One, Chapter 1, ‘The Public Domain’; Part Four, Chapter 11, ‘The End of Public Discourse’; Maurits de Hoog, The Dutch Metropolis; Designing quality interaction environment (excerpts and maps).
  3. Early Urbanism. Lewis Mumford, The City in History, Chapter 1, ‘Sanctuary, Village, and Stronghold’ (excerpts); Chapter 2, ‘The Crystallization of the City’ (excerpts).
  4. Networks and the Medieval City. Michael North, The Expansion of Europe, 1250-1500, Chapter 5.5, ‘Urban Society’; Chapter 12.4, ‘Urban Society’; Nikki Brand, [The Roots of the Randstad] (maps), Paul Hohenberg and Lynn Hollen Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, 1000-1994 (excerpt).
  5. Presentation of draft position papers (to be submitted the Thursday the week before – note: students will read one anothers’ work).
  6. Global Networks and Regionalism: Part I. Saskia Sassen, Global Networks, Linked Cities, Introduction: ‘Locating Cities on Global Circuits’; Chapter 4, ‘Hierarchies of Dominance among World Cities: A Network Approach’ (by David Smith and Michael Timberlake). Presentation: ‘How to Write Academic English’.
  7. Global Networks and Regionalism: Part II. Saskia Sassen, Globalization and its Discontents, Chapter 1, ‘Introduction: Whose City is it? Globalization and the Formation of New Claims’; Chapter 10, ‘The State and the Global City: Notes Toward a Conception of Place-centred Governance’.
  8. The Future? Edward Glaeser, Triumph of the City, Chapter 7, ‘Why Has Sprawl Spread?’

Study Goals

At the end of this course students will be expected to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of regions and territories according to the following criteria:

  • As complex artefacts.    
  • As products of global and regional flows, migrations, and mobilities.
  • As the focus and outcome of planning and urban design.

The student will also be expected to demonstrate the following abilities:

  • Reflect in a critical way on urban theory.
  • Develop a critical theoretical position in relation to the literature of regions and territories, and take a personal position in relation to these.
  • Synthesize ideas.
  • State a personal position on a specific case study in an academically rigorous position paper. 

Education Method

The literature will be made available at beforehand through Blackboard. Seminars and presentations will consist of the following tasks:

  • Read, present, and discuss a series of texts as an introduction to regional theory.
  • Workshop(s) that connect theory with studio work.
  • Present and write up a case study.


Attendance is compulsory.The student will need to demonstrate the following:

  • An understanding of the set literature.
  • Make presentations in class in relation to the set literature.
  • Actively participate in class discussions.
  • Develop a critical theoretical position through weekly texts (c.750 words per week).
  • Write a position paper (3,000 words) in which the literature has been applied to a specific case study.


10 September 201913:45 - 16:45Room V
17 September 201913:45 - 16:45Room V
24 September 201913:45 - 16:45Room V
1 October 201913:45 - 16:45Room V
8 October 201913:45 - 16:45Room V
15 October 201913:45 - 16:45Room V
22 October 201913:45 - 16:45Room V
29 October 201913:45 - 16:45Room V

How to enroll

Please send an email with your name, mail address, start date, research group and title of your research to abe@tudelft.nl

Course Info

Course code
ABE 004

Course type
lectures with workshops

Most appropriate for
PhD candidates at all stages

Free for PhD candidates of A+BE Graduate School

Number of participants
min. 8 /max. 16

Name of lecturer(s)/coach(es)
Dr.ir. G. Bracken 
Dr. R. Ordonhas Viseu Cardoso 

Course load
8 sessions with lectures and exercises

Graduate School credits


Once a year, from September 2019

Upcoming course dates and times
Fall 2019, see schedule

For further information, please contact Luiz De Carvalho Filho and emu-bk@tudelft.nl