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Urban Design - MA

This forward thinking, exploratory, design focused MA, is rooted in a deep connection between theory and practice. In completion, you will know how to critique, create and experiment with the design of high quality, trans-disciplinary urban places....

Studying with us in 2021/22 and 2022/23

The University has put in place measures in response to Covid-19 to allow us to safely deliver our courses.  Information about the arrangements for the 2021/22 academic year can be found here.  

 

Should the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continue in the 2022/23 academic year or subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

  • Level Postgraduate Taught
  • Study mode Full Time/Part Time
  • Location City Centre
  • School Birmingham School of Architecture and Design
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

Overview

This forward thinking, exploratory, design focused MA, is rooted in a deep connection between theory and practice. In completion, you will know how to critique, create and experiment with the design of high quality, trans-disciplinary urban places.

As ‘an umbrella’ field of study and profession, Urban Design lies at the critical junction of an ever-increasing urban population that continues to add pressure to global systems, with effects that connect through scale, from political strategies right down to an individual's every-day personal experience. Now is the time we must be innovative and joined-up in our thinking. Whether you have a background in architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planning, or other fields; Urban Design is an acknowledgement that we need to work together to face the current global challenges and develop integrated responses that open new opportunities for all of us.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

Urban design lies at the critical junction of an ever-increasing urban population that continues to add pressure to global systems from political strategies to personal experience. Now is the time we must be innovative and joined-up in our thinking, to work together whatever the background, be it originally in architecture and design, planning, or other fields, which relates to global challenges and opportunities.

This design-focused Masters programme is rooted in a deep connection between the latest theories and practices. We blur and move beyond the traditional discipline boundaries of architecture, landscape architecture and planning, social and economic studies, responding to contemporary contexts and continuously striving to incorporate new ways of thinking.

You will learn how to critique, create and experiment with high quality, trans-disciplinary design of urban places. Through collaborative creative processes you will be encouraged to appreciate urban design as an umbrella profession and embrace the dynamic diversity of human conditions.

You will explore ways to refine the way we think about, and make, the places that represent and support our lives, looking to innovative strategies that facilitate happier and more sustainable places for both the short- and long-term success of humanity and our fellow species. In these ways, you will form a deeper appreciation of how places need to be successfully made and sustained.

Drawing on extensive experience in research and practice, this Master's in Urban Design provides a balance of practical and theoretical learning, within the following themes:

Design Process

  • Exploratory, iterative design creativity
  • Strategies and framework design processes
  • Life and Place: curating sustainability, value, character and function
  • Socio-economic and physical analysis across diverse contexts
  • Collaborative design strategy and the role(s) of the urban designer

Communication

  • Contemporary visualisation for urban design - best practice and innovation
  • Mixed-media design communication: explorations in interface and interactivity
  • Communicating with structure, character and precision

Practice

  • Professional and ethical evaluation
  • Transdisciplinary, participatory and inclusive practice
  • Sectors, trends and the targeted marketing of design
  • Time and process management

Theory and Debates

  • Contemporary global questions and debates
  • Between practical theories and theoretical practices
  • International urban-isms, people and design
  • Research practice and process

Why Choose Us?

  • Urban design lies at the critical junction of an ever-increasing urban population that continues to add pressure to global systems from political strategies to personal experience. Now is the time we must be innovative and joined-up in our thinking, to work together whatever the background, be it originally in architecture and design, planning, or other fields, which relates to global challenges and opportunities.
  • This design-focused Master's programme is rooted in a deep connection between the latest theories and practices. We blur and move beyond the traditional discipline boundaries of architecture, landscape architecture and planning, social and economic studies, responding to contemporary contexts and continuously striving to incorporate new ways of thinking.
  • You will learn how to critique, create and experiment with high quality, trans-disciplinary design of urban places. Through collaborative creative processes you will be encouraged to appreciate urban design as an umbrella profession and embrace the dynamic diversity of human conditions.
  • You will explore ways to refine the way we think about, and make, the places that represent and support our lives, looking to innovative strategies that facilitate happier and more sustainable places for both the short- and long-term success of humanity and our fellow species. In these ways, you will form a deeper appreciation of how places need to be successfully made and sustained.

Entry Requirements

Essential Requirements
Essential

Landscape Institute accredited Conversion Course, or BA Hons / BSc degree in Landscape Architecture or Garden Design, minimum Lower Second-Class (2:2).

International students must meet all the Border Agency entry criteria for the programme.

International Students

Entry requirements here

Fees & How to Apply

  • International students

Award: MA

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 1 year
  • £7,900 per year
  • Full Time
  • 18 months with Professional Placement
  • £8,690 per year
  • Part Time
  • 2 years
  • £8,690 per year

Award: MA

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 1 year
  • £16,300 per year
  • Full Time
  • 18 months with Professional Placement
  • TBC

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead.

Access to computer equipment

You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.

Printing

You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.

Field trips

All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.

Access to Microsoft Office 365

Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.

Key software

You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.

Key subscriptions

Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.

Free access to Rosetta Stone

All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.

Free Adobe Creative Cloud licence

Students studying on this course can request a free licence to install the entire suite of applications on up to two personal devices.

Project materials (mandatory)

This course includes project work that requires you to develop and produce a portfolio or collection. You'll be expected to provide the materials for use in your individual major projects; costs will vary depending on the materials selected but are likely to be in the region of £150 to £200.

Clothing and safety equipment (mandatory)

This course requires the purchase of safety equipment in order to use the workshop facilities, including safety boots/shoes. You are also expected to have appropriate clothing and footware for site visits and field trips.

Excess printing (optional)

Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.

Field trips (optional)

This course includes the option of additional trips that may enhance your experience, at extra cost.

Memberships (optional)

You may wish to join a union or professional body related to this course. As a student on our Landscape Institute (LI) accredited course, you can enjoy free access to the LI campus, free access to the LI journal and discounts on LI events.

Accommodation and living costs

The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.

Personal statement

Students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.

Your postgraduate personal statement is going to shine a light on your personal experience, academic success, personal skills and any other factors that will support your application for further study.

Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:

Your passion and motivations

Studying a postgraduate course usually means you want to specialise in something. So what’s driving you?

Why this course?

Show that you’ve researched the course offering. What is it about this particular course that appeals to you? Is it the lecturers? The modules? Etc.

What makes you a good postgraduate candidate?

Tutors want to know that you can handle postgraduate study, so show them how your undergraduate experiences or work life has equipped you for a more advanced level of study. Key areas to address are research and group work but this can vary depending on your chosen course.

Relevant academic or work experience

Add anything relevant that relates back to your chosen course and shows how your skills will contribute towards your learning. What extra-curricular activities have you taken part in? What awards have you won? What employment or voluntary experience do you have that has helped you develop transferable skills? How do these specifically relate to the course you are applying for?

You should also mention your future plans and how a postgraduate qualification fits in. Try to look beyond your postgraduate study – do you plan to jump straight into a specific career or follow your studies with a research degree? Lastly, use plain, professional English and, where possible, utilise the language of your chosen industry.

Get more information on writing personal statements.

Course in Depth

MA

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 160 credits):

Applied, critical exploration of case study projects/urbanist movements/agendas evaluating urban design via sketchbook studies, using mixed methods of drawn analysis in various contexts. Using Learn by doing, demonstrations and in-situ seminar Exploratory media: hand, models, digital, virtual.

Debates on sustainable development (social, economic, environment), Placemaking theories.

Site visit to the site the coursework will focus on.

Case studies

  • Analysis of context and site.
  • Spatial planning policies and urban design principles.
  • Community engagement approaches and methods.
  • Critical Research Questions
  • Exploratory, Active Research Methodologies
  • Analysis and future questions
    • Critique of contemporary theory and urban-isms
    • Sustainable Environment, Virtual/Smart City, Art and
    • Public, Ethics & Economics, Planning, Density, Zones

Study of Precedent on International Contemporary Interest Context e.g. Asia, Africa, Middle East, Americas, Europe

Example debate themes e.g. Migration and ownership, Ubiquity and Monopoly, Displaced Ecology, Power/Control, ownership?

  • Green and blue spaces
  • Energy policies and transitions
  • Water provision, consumption and management
  • Waste minimisation and management
  • Food security and agriculture
  • Research-informed and applied student-led Design Project
  • Critical Theoretical Analysis, Reflective Practice / Processes

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete 20 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules:

Live project, live client design project with collaborative practice. Sign-up from a range of tutor pitched projects. With reviews by stakeholders e.g. practitioner, public

Introduction to planning policies and how they frame a development, site visits, case studies, key notes on conservation, sustainability in inner city areas.

  • Valuation, finance and risk management
  • Visual representation

Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

We use the following learning environments and methods in mixed ways. Often days will include multiple methods which align to each other to support in the construction of design ideas and outputs.

Modes/Methods:

  • Design Studio – open, surgery style tutorials, unique to design learning, flexible to time requirements.
  • Group Tutorials – allow focused discussions on specific themes or design stages.
  • Individual Tutorials – focus on specifics of individual process.
  • Formal Presentations: interim, summary and formal review, promotes professionalism.
  • Research and Independent Study – required for self-reflection, deep development of individual approaches, supported by other methods.
  • Traditional Lectures: informational presentations, typically on design approaches systems or areas of practice debate, or theoretical questions.
  • Seminars – discussion groups on themes of contemporary debate.
  • Demonstrations/Workshops/CPD – for instruction on specific design software, materials, systems or technologies.
  • Study trips/tours – experiential learning, guided discussion in physical context of example, and/or project sites, both local and with international options.
  • Collaborative and/or Live Projects – provide focus on specific working conditions, especially working with other disciplines, subject networking, considering practice context and considering inclusivity in design processes.
  • ‘Superstudio’ – design studio which runs between courses in the Birmingham School of Architecture and Design, with a variety of contemporary modes from technical to discursive that change on a week-by-week basis.

Interactive learning Platforms

  • Moodle Virtual Learning Platform, with illustrated briefs, audio-video links, schedules and core course/module info.
  • Microsoft Teams, supporting conversational communication, day to day tutoring and support.
  • Miro – interactive space for collaborative discussions.
  • Always exploring and eager to discuss emergent ways to work: e.g. currently deeply exploring various ways to work with AR/VR at various stages of the design process.

Employability

Enhancing your employability skills

You will learn of range of skills, which will be key to enhancing your future employability.

Specifically you will learn to:

  • Reflect and develop your practice in relation to future employment options.
  • Identify the relationship of theory to practice to develop your personal marketing strategy for promotion of you as an individual.
  • Negotiate, plan and present to a professional standard.
  • Work independently and collaboratively.
  • Be a self-motivated, organised, effective learner.

You will also learn skills in a range of practices in relation to individual development, including various types of visual communication for different design project stages, audiences and market sectors.

Professional practice guidance will teach you a range of skills such as portfolio design, persuasive presentation and collaborative working; using exploratory platforms for self-promotion, presenting yourself and your work in professional ways.


Graduate jobs

The opportunities on graduation are very broad across the built-environment, and typically, students will be able to work on multiple roles and jobs types within typical daily practice.

Urban design requires confidence, resourcefulness, flexibility and the ability to respond creatively to opportunities that arise.

Specific areas and themes:

  • Private practice, as an ‘urban designer’ within multidiscipline practices adding urban design input into diverse scale projects
  • Private practice, at a specialist urban design consultancy and/or as an independent (sole-trader): as urban design consultant, collaborating/co-designing on various scale/sector projects
  • Working in local government for towns and cities, as officer (planning dept.) and/or designing, providing design guidance
  • Collaborative coordinator on various projects

Particular work / sectors

  • Civic space and places
  • Planning process, approval
  • Governmental projects, advisory bodies, independent expert
  • Housing sector, residential development
  • Community, participation and inclusivity work

OpportUNIty

OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

International Students

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Facilities and Staff

Parkside and Curzon Buildings

Our Facilities

When you join Birmingham City University, the first thing you will notice is the exceptional quality of our campuses. With an investment of £340 million across our buildings and facilities, we are committed to giving you the very best learning environment to help shape your experience.

You will be based in our multi-million pound Parkside building – a state of the art facility located within our City Centre Campus. Here you will have full access to our recently upgraded, high spec CAD (Computer-Aided-Design) workstations situated within our dedicated computer labs and open access areas. We also provide access to leading edge digital design software, enabling you to explore technical drawing, graphics, 3D modelling, visualization, animation, computation, simulation, and virtual reality.

The Parkside Building is also home to our digital fabrication labs, where you will be able to explore 3D printing, laser cutting, water-jet cutting, CNC machining, ceramics, glass and traditional model-making, guided by our team of expert technicians with access to our on-site material store, and professional printing facilities.

You’ll also benefit from:

  • Design studios
  • Physical and digital library
  • Loanable laptops
  • Dedicated social spaces
  • Café’s

Photo Gallery

From industry-standard software, to our workshops and studio spaces, everything you need will be at your fingertips from day one. Working with our dedicated teaching teams and expert technicians, you'll be supported from concept through to completion.

Our staff

Lucas Hughes

Programme Director, BA (Hons) Landscape Architecture

Lucas Hughes holds qualifications in landscape architecture and urban design. He has a broad range of interest and experience within several professional sectors linking across the built-environment industry. His core focus is to promote high quality, integrated, design-led processes for the creation of characterful and sensitive built environment solutions.

More about Lucas

Dr. Jieling Xiao

Senior Lecturer in Environmental Design

Jieling is a qualified Architect and Designer and makes contributions on most of the programmes associated with the the Birmingham School of Architecture and Design. Jieling believes passionately that designers need to consider more than just how the hardware of architecture functions for its users. Jieling is particularly interested in theories and the creative practice of place-making and environmental design that interprets and plays with people’s sensory experiences, particularly in relation to soundscape and smellscape.

More about Jieling

Dr Silvia Gullino

Associate Professor in City Making and Course Leader for the MPlan/BSc Property Development and Planning

Silvia holds a BA and MA in Architecture and an MSc in Environmental Engineering from the Politecnico di Torino. She gained her PhD in Spatial Planning at the Politecnico di Milano in 2005 and conducted postdoctoral research as a Senior Fellow in International Urban Studies at the Institute for Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University from 2005 to 2006.

Since 2007, she has held academic positions at Kingston University, King’s College London, University College London and Salford University.

Silvia is currently Associate Professor in City Making in the Centre for the Built Environment at Birmingham City University, where she leads on the MPlan/BSc Property Development and Planning and teaches several of the MA Planning Built Environments modules (Placemaking, Development Project and Professional Practice).

She holds a MArch in Architecture from the Politecnico di Torino and a PhD in Spatial Planning from the Politecnico di Milano in 2005. In 2005-06, she conducted postdoctoral research as a Senior Fellow in International Urban Studies at the Institute for Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Since 2007, she has held academic positions at Kingston University, King’s College London, University College London and Salford University.

She joined the School of Engineering and the Built Environment as Senior Lecturer in Spatial Planning in 2017.

More about Silvia

Professor Peter Larkham

Professor of Planning

A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Historical Society, Peter teaches on postgraduate courses in built environment subjects, and has contributed to a number of academic journal papers and other publications. He also supervises at PhD level.

More about Peter