Columbia University Great Cities Past and Present Essay


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Respond to each question with a minimum of 350 words per response. There is no right answer, but reference course material in your argument.

Treat this as an exam – write from memory in your own words. Do not quote or take specific text from the course materials.

1. The first half of this semester we learned about the first skyscrapers in New York and Chicago. To finish up the semester we looked at Shanghai, two cities with the tallest skyscrapers in the world. As we learned, NYC and Chicago implemented zoning laws that regulate the height and size of buildings making it impossible for them to develop a building as tall as the Shanghai Tower or Burj Khalifa (Dubai). Do you agree with regulating development? Should we have a more laissez-faire (free from regulation) system in place to allow for buildings to be taller and taller or do these regulations help preserve a “human scale” in cities?

2. From Paris to Brasilia, we saw governments construct buildings in a common architectural style to express their power. Former President Trump pushed to “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” arguing that all federal government buildings should be in the same classical architectural style. This would contradict a history of civic architecture expressing various times, ideas, materials, and aesthetics in the U.S. However, many of those designs reflect a uniform classical aesthetic.

Building off the cities we explored this semester, what do you think about this executive order? Should all federal buildings be the same style or should architects, planners, and politicians have the latitude to design what they want? What are the pros and cons of each side?

3. Cities around the world constantly look to other cities for example.

First, choose a city. What similarities does this city have with the cities we’ve explored over the semester? What can one learn from the other? You can reference any of the cities from the entire semester. Think critically – what planning agendas would you recommend to or from your city?

(Possible themes you can explore include housing, transit, parks and open space, slums, street plans, and infrastructure. Pick any cities you see a connection with your city)

Example: I went to college in Burlington, Vermont, and would have chosen Burlington for my final paper. Burlington could learn a lot from Manchester because they developed affordable housing and public housing close to the local university, which helped create a thriving cultural scene with art and music. The young people that flocked to Manchester would likely not have without the public and affordable housing, mixed with art culture and educational opportunites… As a college town, Burlington can learn a lot from Manchester…

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