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MITx: Site Planning Online

How to plan a site, its infrastructure and public spaces so that it is sustainable, supports human needs, compatible with its natural and man-made surroundings, adaptable and economically efficient. The course includes many examples of well planned sites.

10 weeks
4–6 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
This course is archived
Future dates to be announced

About this course

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Cities are built site by site.

Site planning has been taught in urban planning, landscape architecture and architecture programs for over a century and continues to be a foundation course for those who aspire to plan the built environment. It is a required subject on licensing and certification programs for each of these disciplines.

Mastering the art of site planning requires substantive knowledge, well-honed design skills, and familiarity with examples and prototypes of site organization.

This course provides the perspectives of leading academics and practitioners on the important issues in preparing site plans. It offers a foundation of knowledge, and the opportunity to apply what is learned in preparing a site plan.

At a glance

  • Institution: MITx
  • Subject: Design
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Prerequisites:

    No prerequisities, but basic understanding of land and building form would be helpful.

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills: Sales, Built Environment, Site Planning, Urban Planning, Planning, Landscape Architecture

What you'll learn

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How to analyze a site and imagine the possibilities for its use.

How to create a program and a plan for a site.

How to make choices about site infrastructure.

Examples of well planned sites.

The course is organized in 10 one-week units, each containing 3-6 video learning modules. Each module is presented by an expert in the area being covered: Gary Hack, Mary Anne Ocampo, Brent Ryan, Dennis Frenchman, Shail Joshi, Zhuangyuan Fan, Eran Ben-Joseph, Jim Wescoat, Carlo Ratti, Larry Vale, Bob Simha and Tunney Lee of MIT; Dennis Pierprz, Elaine Limmer, Greg Havens and Martin Zogram of Sasaki; and Lynne Sagalyn of Columbia University.

The topics covered during each week are:

  1. Introduction: site values; exemplary greenfield and urban sites.
  2. Site analysis: natural site analysis; man made context of sites; infrastructure capacity; development regulations and policies; sites as property; integrating site knowledge.
  3. Site planning methods: planning processes; users, stakeholders and the public; economic value of sites; design methods; digital media for design; creating a site proposal.
  4. Site infrastructure: stormwater management; complete streets; pedestrian realms; water supply and disposal; energy for sites; intelligent infrastructure.
  5. Site concepts and performance: placemaking; subdivision and site assembly; scoring site performance; impact assessment.
  6. Residential sites: history of residential sites; typology of housing forms; housing and community design; dense residential sites.
  7. Places for commerce and work: prototypes for shopping; future workplaces; innovation zones; planning for e-commerce.
  8. Places for recreation and culture: Landscape structure; urban public spaces; human development and play; cultural districts.
  9. College and university planning: types of universities; campus form and communication; new campuses; networked campuses; planning for adaptability.
  10. Planning communities: mixed use development; new communities; the future of communities; concluding remarks.

Students will be examined in 4 quizzes about their comprehension of the materials covered.

In addition to viewing the modules, students will have the opportunity to prepare a site plan in three stages: a site analysis (3 weeks); a program and concept plan (4 weeks) and a detailed plan for part of the public domain of a site (3 weeks.) The course will provide basic data on two sites that may be used for this exercise. Alternatively, students may select a site in their own community and use it for their project. Or if the course is being taken in parallel with a university level studio or workshop, the results may be submitted for grading and feedback.

Please note that the assignments are available to only those students who sign up for verified certificates.

Frequently Asked Questions

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  • Do I need computer graphics skills to take the course?
    • No, hand drawn plans are perfectly adequate.
  • What will be the format of the quizzes?
    • Multiple choice questions.
  • How will I receive feedback on the work I do?
    • There will be peer group feedback, and the instructors will provide feedback after reviewing a sample of the projects submitted.

More about this course

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The suggested textbook for the course is Gary Hack, Site Planning: International Practice (MIT Press, 2018).  It is available for purchase or rent from the MIT Press web site: or from Amazon and other booksellers.

Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners residing in one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. edX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.

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