Urban Design Program

The Urban Design program is organized around three central themes reinforced by core studios and seminars:

Sustainable Cities
We take a holistic approach to designing the livable city. Since more than half the world’s population lives in cities, with that number set to increase to two-thirds by 2030, we must anticipate the ecological impacts of our design decisions. In preparation for a post-carbon era, we address concerns related to climate change, energy usage, public health, food production and resource availability through an integrated approach to the design of urban settlements.

Our students re-imagine and re-interpret urban systems – from transportation networks to hydrological systems to zoning codes to social movements  – with the goal of creating cities that are at once socially just, economically diverse and ecologically resilient. These challenges must be urgently addressed: we believe that urban designers are best positioned to meet them head on.

Local to Global
We believe urban designers must recognize the interrelated local and global impacts of their actions and understand the interdisciplinary nature of urban problems. We address design issues at all scales, from the individual public space to the neighborhood, city, region, nation and world. This approach acknowledges that all sites are embedded within larger systems, a concept we engage in all our studios.

Innovations in Practice
We train our students to become critical, reflective professionals with a deep understanding of urban design theory and practice. All our graduates possess knowledge of contemporary urban thinking as well as exceptional technical, verbal and graphic communication skills. Our curriculum is informed by innovations in current practice: we undertake real projects with real clients, and some classes are taught by leading practitioners from the top design firms in the region. Each year, renowned practitioners give lectures and serve as jurors in the MUD program. To address the most complex social-ecological problems of our time, we see high demand for graduates who possess multiple talents, a broad understanding of urban planning, architecture, landscape, real estate development, and urban politics and economics, and the ability to work not only with design professionals but also engineers, policy makers, environmental scientists and the public.