Course focus is on the process of designing urban places where public life and a sense of community can thrive. Many critics of American cities have lamented the fact that these urban areas have lost their uniqueness; the urban landscape has come to be visually characterized by a dispiriting "sameness". Considered most offensive are standardized development of chain and "big box" stores with their corporate "logo" signs, and "cookie cutter" residential subdivisions. The course explores efforts of communities to retain their uniqueness and enhance civic pride, including the creation of vibrant public spaces, lively pedestrian environments, and comfortable and safe streets and neighborhoods. The meaning, purposes, and techniques of "contextual design" are explored, especially those designed to protect local historical heritage and regional distinctiveness.