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A Brief History of the Urban Design Program

The Urban Design Program at Columbia originated in 1935, when the Carnegie Corporation funded a postgraduate curriculum in order to "enlarge the range of studies offered to architects" within the fields of urbanism and housing. These goals remain central to the program today. The original experiment was dominated by the personages of Henry Wright, Werner Hegemann, and Carol Aronovici. Their focus was on the social and physical form of the emerging twentieth-century metropolis, with considerable influence from the English experience of the previous several decades.

The present Urban Planning Program also evolved from these beginnings, with some ambiguity between urban "design" and "planning." By the 1960's, however, both disciplines had aquired distinct identities. A separate Master of Science for Urban Design was initiated in the 1964-1965 school year with Percival Goodman as a prime pedagogic force. During this time, the program was influenced by the cultural critique of the Team Ten group in Europe within the framework of the growing problems associated with urban "renewal" and urban dispersal in the United States. Between 1972 and 1974, the program was restructured under the directorship of Romaldo Giurgola, and then again in 1974 under Alexander Cooper, a member of the New York City Planning Commission. With the involvement of Stanton Eckstut, the program was heavily refocused on Urban Design practice, as it had evolved in New York City during the Lindsay administration. This approach held until the early 1990's, when the present curriculum was initiated. The Urban Design Program now engages the urban consequences of the same period that witnessed its formation.