Dennis Frenchman, Senior Lecturer, Departments of Architecture and Planning
Peter Roth, Lecturer, Department of Architecture


Josh Firebaugh
David Ravin

Class Hours:

MW 2:30-5:30

Class Location:


Course Information

Course Objectives
Schedule of Classes

Course Objectives

The objective of this course is to provide students with the skills and knowledge required to synthesize real estate development projects. The course will address the interaction among physical, financial, market and public policy factors, through the medium of design. As participants in the urban development process, prospective developers, architects, and planners need to understand what makes good design for the private sector, how a development team functions, how design shapes and is shaped by financial and political considerations, and how physical form is produced from ideas. The course is based on the philosophy that real estate development is a creative process. Students are encouraged to explore and to test new design and development concepts as they synthesize all aspects of a project.

The course is not intended to teach students to be designers. Rather, by engaging in a design process from the points of view of the developer and the architect, students should become more sophisticated and critical participants in the act of development.

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Design for Urban Development is organized as a workshop. The workshop will explore subject matter by examining various prototypes for development and then applying these prototypes in synthetic exercises. The exercises represents typical development situations requiring strategic decisions about design and finance, including:

Exercises challenge students to respond to these issues in different locations and circumstances with the objective of improving skills and intuition through practice.

The exercises will be supplemented by lectures, discussions, field trips and case studies offered by the instructors and invited guests. These will provide background information essential to understanding each exercise, as well as exposure to the design and development process. Several special sessions are included in the schedule to expand student horizons in the subject area and to provide a context for workshop exercises.

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The class this year will explore two different urban development situations: infill development at a neighborhood scale, and large scale mixed use projects. Our work on each of these topics will follow roughly the same sequence: First, we will research prototypes and precedents for the topic, and then we will apply this knowledge to the preparation of a professional design and development proposal on a specific site. Topics and exercises are as follows:

Neighborhood Infill Development

1. Infill Prototypes - Development teams will research different residential and commercial project types and present their "qualifications" to undertake a neighborhood scaled project at a prominent location. For each type, we will consider physical qualities, site layouts, market appeal, and financial implications. Results will be assembled into a briefing book for use by the class. (2 weeks)

2. 277 Boylston Street - Using the research from Exercise 1, the teams will prepare design and financial proposals to develop a one acre site located between the Back Bay and Fenway neighborhoods in Boston. This small but complex site involves several parcels and is bordered by housing, neighborhood retail, and an active commuter rail line. (5 weeks)

Large Scale Mixed-Use Projects

3. Mixed Use Prototypes - Will explore case studies and current trends in large scale urban projects involving mixes of residential, retail, office, hotel, entertainment and other uses. Results will be assembled in a briefing book for use by the class. (1 week)

4. Millennium Redux - Using the research from Exercise 3, teams will prepare proposals to develop the air-rights over the Massachusetts Turnpike at Massachusetts Avenue - one of the premier and most controversial sites in Boston, currently under agreement to Millennium Partners. We will involve representatives of the neighborhood and the Boston Redevelopment Authority to assist us in conceiving the project. (5 weeks)

For students with little or no previous exposure to design skills and practice, we have scheduled several optional sessions to be held at special times. Topics will include: Graphic Tools and Fundamentals, Site Analysis Techniques, Graphic Thinking and Reading Working Drawings. All students are urged to take advantage of these opportunities.

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Much of the learning in this subject will come from personal interactions among students and with the faculty. For this reason, attendance and participation in lecture and studio sessions and in class reviews is very important. Team and individual work on the exercises should be done in the studio. Written material relating to each exercise, studio seminars, and case studies will be distributed in advance at the appropriate time in the course schedule. Students will be individually responsible for reviewing this information and for preparing for each class.

Final grades for the subject will be determined approximately as follows:

Class participation and "teamwork"


Project 1


Project 2


Project 3


Project 4


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Dennis Frenchman, Senior Lecturer
Department of urban Studies and Planning/Department of Architecture
MIT office: 10-485 (253-8847)
Principal, ICON Architecture, Inc.
Boston, MA  02111 (451-3333)

Peter Roth, Lecturer
Department of Architecture
Principal, New Atlantic Development
Boston, MA  02111 (338-7600 Ex: 319)

Teaching Assistants:

Josh Firebaugh
Office: 10-485

David Ravin
Office: 10-485

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Schedule of Classes





1: Prototypes for Urban Infill

W. Feb. 4

Introduction: Objectives of the course; orgainzation; overview of studio content
Introduction Project 1: Organize development teams
Field Visit: Boylston Street, Back Bay

Project 1 Issued: Development Qualifications and Products

M. Feb. 9

Lecture: Residential Development prototypes; review and discuss assignement 1
Case Study: Design for the Residential Market (Guest TBA)

Special Session

Graphic Tools and Fundamentals: Optional for students with no graphic background, bring tools (5:30-6:30 pm or by arrangement with class)

W. Feb. 11

Lecture: Commercial Development Prototypes
Case Study: Design for the Commercial Market (Guest TBA)

T. Feb. 17

Studio Presentations: Team Qualifications and Development products (Note: presentations will conclude in evening session)

Project 1 Due

2: Proposal for an Infill Development

W. Feb. 18

Introduce Project 2: Review the request for proposals; short list of firms to compete.
Lecture/Demonstration: Analyzing a site.

Project 2 Issued: An Urban Infill Proposal
Begin Part 1: Site Analysis

F. Feb. 20 Special Session

Site Analysis Techniques: Optional for students with no design background (time to be arranged)

M. Feb. 23

Pin-up Site Analysis: Design problems and opportunities
Lecture: Understanding the capacity of a site; development regulations

Site Analysis Due
Begin Part 2: Capacity Analysis

W. Feb. 25

Field Trip: Neighborhood-scaled projects; Boston and Cambridge

M. Mar. 2

Studio work: Alternatives

Special Session

Graphic Thinking: Optional for students with no design background (5:30-6:30 pm, or by arangement with class)

W. Mar. 4

Pin-up Capacity Analysis: Alternative Program and Design Concepts
Lecture: Financial modeling to assess development concepts

Capacity Analysis Due
Begin Part 3: Financial Modeling

M. Mar. 9

Present Financial Review: Preliminary assessment of schemes

Project Financial Review Due

W. Mar. 11

Studio work: Develop preferred scheme and financials

M. Mar. 16

Studio work: Develop scheme

W. Mar. 18

Studio presentation and review: Design and Development Proposals for Urban Infill Project

Project 2 Due

Mar. 23-27


3: Prototypes for Large Scale Mixed-Use

M. Mar. 30

Introduce Project 3: Assign cases to investigate.

Project 3 Issued: Project Research

W. Apr. 1

Field Visit: Mixed Use Projects (meet @ Prudential Center; 2:30 pm)

M. Apr. 6

Studio Presentations: Mixed-use Development Prototypes (note: presentations wil conclude in evening session)

Project 3 due

4: Proposal for a Mixed-Use Development

W. Apr. 8

Introduce Project 4: RFP for development of Turnpike air-rights.
Field Visit: Revisit the site

Project 4 Issued: A Mixed-Use Proposal
Begin Part 1: Site Analysis

M. Apr. 13

Round Table: Issues of large scale development (Millennium Partners, BRA, and neighborhood participants)

W. Apr. 15

Pin-up Site Analysis: Design problems and opportunities
Lecture/demonstration: Capacity constraints and public policy; introduce massing models

Site Analysis Due
Begin Part 2: Capacity Analysis

S. Apr. 19/M. Apr. 20

FIELD TRIP TO NYC (Patriots Day)

W. Apr. 22

Studio work: Develop alternatives
Lecture: Mixed-use financial model and costs

Special Session

Reading Working Drawings: Optional for students with no professional experience. (5:30-6:30 or by arrangement with the class)

M. Apr. 27

Pin-up Capacity Analysis: Design concept and program; massing models

Capacity Analysis Due
Begin Part 3: Financial Modeling

W. Apr. 29

Review financials
Studio work:
Develop preferred scheme

Financial Model Due

M. May 4
Longer Session

Charrette: Synthesis of detailed design ideas based on selected program and site plan (meet at 2:00 pm; conclude at 9:00 pm)

Site Plan for Charrette (hand in by 9 :00 am)

W. May 6

Studio work

M. May 11

Studio work

W. May 13

Studio Presentation and Review: Design and Development Proposal for Turnpike Air-Rights

Project 4 Due

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