Urban Environment

Urban Environment Specialization: urban and architectural history

The Urban Systems program is predicated on the idea that urban problems are multifaceted and that they cannot be understood or solved within the confines of an individual discipline.  The sub- specialization in urban and architectural history extends and strengthens this multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach by emphasizing the importance of the historical continuum of the urban environment for understanding urban problems. 

The importance of history to the study of urban systems is embedded in the core curriculum and the individual track requirements. The historical perspective is critical to the study of urban systems since it provides a means of examining contemporary urban issues through the prism of the past. The sub-specialization in urban and architectural history builds upon this foundation. 

The sub-specialization provides students with the opportunity to study the complex interrelationships within urban environments from an historical perspective. Within the specialization, urban and architectural history is not viewed as an end in itself, but rather as a framework for a chronologically comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of urban systems.  By examining the structure and growth of urban systems in the past, present, and future, the sub-specialization builds upon the Ph.D. program’s mandate to teach students how to effect urban change and sustain urban transformation. 

Like all Urban Systems students, those in the sub-specialization examine “the social, cultural, political, economic, geographic, organizational, and bioenvironmental factors that influence urban populations.”  However, rather than focusing on quantitative and qualitative methods, urban and architectural history students use diverse historical analytical methods to frame their scholarly inquiries into the development of the urban environment and the relationship of urban spatial organization to politics, economics, cultures and societies.

Students in this sub-specialization follow the Urban Systems Core Curriculum With a nearly identical core curriculum, urban and architectural history students benefit from the same interdisciplinary foundation that is a hallmark of the Urban Systems perspective on cities.

Urban and architectural history students are required to take a distinct Research Core focusing on methods of urban history and architectural history, theory and criticism. These courses are also of interest and use to students in other Urban Systems specializations.  Students in the urban and architectural history sub-specialization are encouraged to take other research core courses on quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as GIS, as appropriate to their specific fields of inquiry.  In addition, students in the sub-specialization also take a pedagogy seminar, since preparing students to teach in architecture, planning, and urban studies programs will be a key element of the track sub-specialization.

Within the Urban Environment track of the Urban Systems program, the sub-specialization accepts qualified students to conduct interdisciplinary work on the built environment, cities and suburbs, architectural movements, cultural geography, landscape, and material culture. The emphasis is on a historical perspective on contemporary urban issues and on transnational movements from the eighteenth century to the present.  While topics covering other regions will be considered, the strength of the faculty is in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Faculty for the sub-specialization is drawn from NJIT’s School of Architecture and the NJIT/Rutgers Federated History Department.

Dissertations currently underway in the urban and architectural history sub-specialization include:

  • “Amusement, Morals and Religion: “The Late 19th Century Seaside Towns of Asbury Park and Ocean Grove, New Jersey.”
  • “Infrastructural Landscape as Agent of Urban Transformation: Meadowlands, New Jersey.”
  • “Rationalizing Everyday Life in Istanbul, circa 1900.”
  • “Healing Spaces: Mental Institutions in the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey, 1870-1930.”

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