Posted September 9th 2013 at 12:43 pm by
in In This Building

"In This Building" : A New MIT Course for Fall '13

Laundry on lines behind triple deckers

Who lives in this building now? Do they still hang their laundry and keep a garden? Photo credit: Leslie Jones via Boston Public Library on Flickr.

In This Building: Multimedia and place-based storytelling is a new half-semester course this fall in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Students will create multimedia portraits of residential buildings in Boston. Steve Wilmsen of the Boston Globe, Professor Phil Thompson of MIT, and I (Alexa Mills of CoLab) have come together to teach this course.

The class is every Thursday evening from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time from September 12th to October 24th.

Portions of the class will be available to the public in real time. Students will take their notes on a collaborative, open notepad. We’ll also have various public brainstorms on twitter and publish a weekly blog post detailing the class. Follow our blog feed and Twitter account, @MITCoLab, for more information on how you can participate. Download the latest version of the course syllabus, which is an evolving document.

Are you a student planning to take the class for credit? We can’t wait to meet you this Thursday. Please fill out this quick survey in advance of the class so that we can start getting to know you.

You can dig in to the reading list below. What would you add to this list?

Stories and features online:

Cizek, Katerina. Highrise / Out My Window. National Film Board of Canada. 2011.

Dawson, Brian and Michael Kolomatsky, Stacy Abramson, Alicia DeSantis, Beatrice de Gea. Beyond the Stoop. The New York Times. 2010.

Irons, Meghan E. and Akilah Johnson, Maria Cramer, Jenna Russell,and Andrew Ryan. Ed. Steven Wilmsen. 68 Blocks: Life, Death, Hope in Boston’s Most Troubled Neighborhood. The Boston Globe. 2013. * Read all five articles, watch videos, and view all media features included in sidebar on the right side of webpage

Hill Side 2

What’s going on in there? Photo credit: matt.searles on Flickr.

One place, many voices:

Arroyo, John. Art and Culture Mapping on the LA River. CoLab Radio. Boston. 2010. (Look at maps one, two, and three, four, and five.)

Tichy, Jan. Project Cabrini Green. Chicago. 2011.

Books to get from the library:

(All materials are on course reserve at MIT Libraries under 11.S948)

Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. Vintage Books: A Division of Random House, Inc. New York. 1989.

DeCarava, Roy and Langston Hughes. The Sweet Flypaper of Life. Simon and Schuster, Inc. New York. 1955

Forester, John. Planning in the Face of Power. Chapter seven, “Listening: The Social Policy of Everyday Life”. University of California Press. 1989.

Frug, Gerald E. and David J. Barron. City bound: How states stifle urban innovation. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, New York. 2008.

Marcus, Claire Cooper. House As a Mirror of Self: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home. Nicolas-Hays, Inc. 2006. Berwick, Maine.


Jacobs, Allan B. Looking at Cities. Places. Volume 1, Number 4. pp. 28-37. 1984. *Added by Ezra Glenn on 9/20/13.


Ossard, Claudie. Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain. Mirimax. 2001. *We will watch selections in class. You do not need to watch the entire film.

Feel welcome to contact the course instructors Alexa ( and @alexatimeaus), Steve ( and @swilmsen), and Phil ( and @jt71J) with questions and comments.

Facade of Apartment Building on Commonwealth Avenue, 9:30 A.M.

When was this place built, and for whom? Has it been retrofitted over the years to accommodate different residents? Photo credit: Nishan Bichajian via MIT-Libraries on Flickr.

Comments are closed.