Urban design as a postgraduate university degree emerged in the 1960s as a reaction to the urbanistic shortcomings of town planning. A primarily architect-led response to post WWII reconstruction in Europe and urban renewal projects of the 1950s-60s, urban design education has received renewed priority in recent years. The global importance of the city as the focus of sustainable planning and design was announced in the 1987 United Nations’ report Our Common Future. In intervening years, efforts at policy formulation and implementation have progressed as national initiatives but such efforts in university education have lagged. With epistemic transformations such as climate change science and a surge in urban migration, the re-examination of urban design curricula is timely as universities seek to develop programs that address city sustainability. What general direction should a contemporary urban design curriculum take to address the scale and complexity of intertwined urban forces and values: should curricula be focused on practice or more research-led and future-policy biased? Should the design studio remain the core of curricula, and if so, which kinds of studio problems are most relevant today? Should the focus be on normative institutions and traditional urban scale problems or more focused on future infrastructures and regulatory controls at multiple scales? Alongside courses in history of city form, visualisation, public policy, and urban economics, what other topics should be included and which collaborative/interdisciplinary models might be adopted? To begin to answer these questions, this paper undertakes a comparative survey of four approaches to a contemporary urban design curriculum. Focusing on key aspects, program structure, and future challenges in the university education of architects and urban design professionals, the paper contributes to scholarship on the practice and theory of city design education and aligns with core Conference themes of sustainability and resilience in cities.
18 Mar 2018
Constructing an Urban Future: The Sustainability and Resilience of Cities