Cities are by the far the largest human-made things on Earth, formed through millions of decisions made by individuals, groups, and governments generally over hundreds or even thousands of years. The oldest city still in use is Delhi, India, where recorded history shows people have lived continuously for over 5,000 years; the youngest might be found anywhere, but most likely in China, where the government has recenty established large cities in mere months.
How and why cities develop center on a fascinating set of questions for architects, who are often, but not always, involved in how they form. While no city is "typical," some have unusual patterns and histories of growth that architecture faculty and students study. For example, certain cities have been almostly completely planned by designers, such as Dubai, Canberra, or Brasilia, but many have evolved more organically, like Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, or Bangkok. Cities like Rome or Paris began as slow-growing settlements, only to have large public works projects imposed by governments reorganize how they work; those like New York or Los Angeles developed over a short period through intense bursts of private development. The natural environments, cultures, and economies of cities make each unique — lots of lessons for future designers!
Architecture schools not only take on design problems that look at urban development or how architecture expresses urban cultural identities, but often establish centers in places around the world where students can visit to get a more in-depth experience of the city first-hand. Here are some examples of how architecture students and faculty are exploring cities...
Image 1 & 2 > A community redesign for the city of Flint, Michigan.
Image 3 - 5 > A new design for the James Street Corridor of the West Bottoms, Kansas City.