Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Architecture - Heriot-Watt University

Postgraduate Course: Urban Design Theory (ARHW11035)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits15 ECTS Credits7.5
SummaryThe course is based on student reading and presentation of key texts on urban design covering socio-economic perspectives, ecological perspectives, spatial perspectives and imagery. This is complemented by exercises which allow the students to develop a more detailed understanding of urban spatial structure and perception of urban space. Through these exercises students will explore the elements which make up the urban structure, and typologies of built form and open space; as well as ideas used in environmental perception including cognition, phenomenology, and spatial analysis techniques such as space syntax.
Course description Not entered
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites Students MUST also take: ( Urban Design for Health and Wellbeing (ARHW11033) AND Strategic Spatial Vision Project (ARHW11037) AND Urban Project (ARCH11204) AND Spatial Planning (ARHW11038)) AND USD Dissertation (ARCH11201)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  33
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 150 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 3, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 147 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Student-led seminars: This involves delivering a presentation to the class on a key urban design text (or texts) of your choice (20 minutes), followed by leading on an activity that you will prepare and facilitate in order to engage the class with the material you have presented (20 minutes) and (50% of the mark)

Critical essay addressing a particular approach to urban design: A paper of no more than 2500 words setting out either a critical discussion of one of the authors or theoretical approaches that you covered in the student-led seminars above, or a critical comparison between two of these key authors or theoretical approaches (50% of the mark)
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. In-depth understanding of the complexity of urban design principles and processes based on a general awareness of the range of theories which support the discipline of urban design, including an ability to compare and contrast urban design theories and literature.
  2. Understanding of how urban design theories have developed and their significance for current practice, including their application to complex real situations
  3. Ability to examine urban design from social, ecological, spatial and psychological perspectives.
  4. Understanding of how social, political, economic and physical factors affect the layout and robustness of urban structure
  5. Ability to evaluate areas of the urban structure and qualities of urban spaces with respect to selected design criteria
Reading List
Cuthbert, Alexander R. Urban design: requiem for an era ¿ review and critique of the last 50 years, Urban Design International, 12, pp 177-223, 2007.

Visual/Imagery perspectives
Cullen, Gordon. The Concise Townscape. Architectural Press, 1971.
Gehl, Jan. Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space, Van Nostrand, 1987.
Lynch, Kevin. Image of the City. MIT, 1960. Good on design at strategic level, based on public surveys. Imageability and legibility. (look at his others as well)
Sitte, Camillo. Camillo Sitte: City Planning according to Artistic Principles. Translated by Collins, George R. and Christine. Phaidon, 1965. Sitte was instrumental in the development of urban design principles. Written in 1889 originally.

Socio-economic perspectives
Hayden, Dolores, Redesigning the American Dream: The Future of Housing, Work, and Family Life. W.W. Norton, 1984.
Hou, Jeffrey. Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities. Routledge, 2010.
Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Penguin. 1964.
Madani-Pour, Ali. Design of Urban Space. John Wiley and Sons, Ltd, 1996.

Spatial perspectives
Alexander, Christopher. A New Theory of Urban Design and A Pattern Language. Oxford University, 1987 and 1977, respectively. (look at his others too)
Krier, Rob. Urban Space. Academy Editions, 1979.
Moughtin, Cliff (2003) Urban Design: Street and Square. Architectural Press. Chapter 2 in particular: Basic Design Concepts. Good too on other authors. Third edition.
Rossi, Aldo. The Architecture of the City. MIT, 1982.

Ecological/Sustainability perspectives
Barton, Hugh, et al (2010) Shaping Neighbourhoods: for local health and global sustainability. Routledge. OR PREVIOUS EDITION: Barton, Hugh, et al (2003) Shaping Neighbourhoods: A guide for health, sustainability and vitality. Spon.
Geddes, Patrick. Cities in Evolution. Ernest Benn, 1968 (originally published by Williams and Norgate, 1915).
McHarg, Ian. Design with Nature. American Museum of Natural History, 1971.
Newman, Peter and Jeffrey Kenworthy. Sustainability and cities: overcoming automobile dependence. Island Press, 1999.

Normative perspectives
Bentley, Ian et al. Responsive Environments: A Manual for Designers. Architectural Press, 1985.
English Partnerships and The Housing Corporation (also Llewelyn-Davies) Urban Design Compendium. English Partnerships and Housing Corporation, 2000. (available from
Tibbalds, Francis. Making People Friendly Towns: Improving the Public Environment in Towns and Cities. Longman, 1992.

Spatial political economy, urban geography and cultural studies perspectives
Castells, M (2003, orig. 1983) ¿The Process of Urban Social Change¿, Chapter 1 in Cuthbert, Alexander R. (ed.) Designing Cities. Blackwell Publishing.
Purcell, M (2013) ¿To Inhabit Well: Counterhegemonic Movements and the Right to the City¿, Urban Geography, 34:4, 560-574.
Zukin, S (2003, orig. 1991) ¿The Urban Landscape¿, Chapter 14 in Cuthbert, Alexander R. (ed.) Designing Cities. Blackwell Publishing.

New perspectives in architecture, urban design and planning
Sklair, L (2005) ¿The Transnational Capitalist Class and Contemporary Architecture in Globalizing Cities¿, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Volume 29.3 September 2005 485¿500.
Gospodini, A (2002) European Cities in Competition and the New ' Uses ' of Urban Design, Journal of Urban Design, 7:1, 59-73.
Healey, P (1999) ¿Institutionalist Analysis, Communicative Planning, and Shaping Places¿, Journal of Planning Education and Research, 1999 19, 111-121.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Soledad Garcia Ferrari
Tel: (0131 6)50 5689
Course secretaryMiss Laura Varga
Tel: (0131 6)50 2430
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information