MA-Postgraduate Diploma-Postgraduate Certificate Urban Design

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  • Objectives
    This programme is intended for all those who wish to embark on a career in Urban Design, to enhance their existing work in the field, or who wish to study it as a Master's subject in its own right. The theories and practice of Urban Design form the process by which we can create or maintain sustainable built environments of quality. Inevitably this involves collaborative interdisciplinary working, which characterises urban design activity. We welcome applicants with first degrees in the built environment professions, such as architects, town planners, highway engineers, surveyors, landscape architects and town centre managers. We also welcome applicants with other qualifications and backgrounds. Please see the 'Applications' section below for more details. This course mainly focuses on UK policy and practice, but the issues which it considers are of increasing importance and relevance to many situations around the world, so the course may be suitable for international students intending to return to work in their home countries. Students from other EU countries and international students will be encouraged to share their home experience and to incorporate it into their coursework.
  • Entry requirements
    We normally require a first degree of 2:2 or above. First degrees are usually in a relevant field, such as Town Planning, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Civil Engineering, or Surveying. We welcome applications from students without the conventional entrance requirements but who do have substantial relevant work or other experience and whose motivation and skills would enable them to succeed on the course. Applicants who have not got a design background must submit a design portfolio. The portfolio may be drawn from any design experience that you have had, and it will be used to assess your design and presentation skills. For example, the portfolio could include architectural, landscape, planning, graphic design, art or craft work. In other words, the portfolio does not have to include architectural or urban design work, and does not necessarily need to have been created through formal education or professional experience. The portfolio should consist of no more than five A4 sheets. These may be paper copies or on a cd, preferably in Adobe pdf or Microsoft PowerPoint format. We can send you guidance notes on developing your design skills and creating a portfolio. International applicants (non UK and EU) should aim to apply by the end of June to allow time to arrange their accommodation, finance and visa.
  • Academic title
    MA/Postgraduate Diploma/Postgraduate Certificate Urban Design
  • Course description
    Why study Urban Design at UWE Bristol?

    The postgraduate Urban Design course at UWE Bristol - first established in 1992 - places emphasis on developing critical understanding and practical skills in Urban Design. It seeks to foster a sensitivity to the context and character of urban areas and to the needs and nature of the diverse clients of urban design. It also seeks to explore the ways in which the built environment can be more sustainable.

    The teaching staff provide a friendly, enabling environment for learning. Drawn from across the Faculty they reflect the interdisciplinary nature of urban design and include planners, architects, landscape architects, geographers and philosophers. They are also actively engaged in research or professional practice, ensuring that you learn directly from the latest academic and practice developments.

    The considerable record of publications, research and consultancy in many aspects of urban design undertaken by the teaching team underpins the content of the course.

    The Bristol area possesses a rich variety of built environments within a short distance, providing an excellent resource of case studies. These environments include a medieval city, classical townscapes, historic waterfronts, inner city, suburbia and 'Edge City'. Market towns and villages are also within a short distance of the University. Field trips and site visits to UK and European towns and cities also enhance students' comparative studies and experiences of diverse built environments.

    Structure and content
    The course is structured on a modular basis and is an integral part of the Faculty postgraduate scheme, which means that modules can, within reason, be taken in any order and at a pace to suit your commitments. Some modules are shared with the MA in Town and Country Planning, reflecting the continuity between these disciplines. Completion of all taught modules leads to the award of Postgraduate Diploma. The Master's award is subject to completion of the dissertation.

    The teaching and learning pattern is varied: a combination of lectures, seminars, projects, or studio sessions, site visits and workshops, which develop skills, for example in drawing, visual analysis or costing.

    Much of your work will be presented graphically, through drawing or Computer Aided Design software.

    There is a residential study visit, usually undertaken in another EU member state, which forms an essential 'comparative' component of the course. Venues have included Barcelona, Lisbon and Berlin.


    The course and the modules within it are regularly reviewed to ensure that they remain up to date and relevant. Some modules may change before the course starts or whilst you are on it, but the overall aims and broad content of the course will remain the same.

    Urban Design and the Public Realm

    This module aims to develop your appreciation of the conditions for successful public spaces, though a  project for a community in Bristol. Through a seminar programme you will develop your understanding of the factors that can enhance the attractiveness or, alternatively, the unattractiveness and deterioration, of urban public spaces. You will discuss how to analyse these factors and develop an appreciation of the part which urban and landscape design can play in enhancing the attractiveness of public spaces, in comparison with wider social and economic forces.

    The module is also designed to develop an appreciation of, and sensitivity towards, the different interests that various groups in society have with respect to public spaces, and hence the degree to which different public spaces provide for different social groups (such as children; teenagers; the elderly; the disabled; parents with children; etc).

    Most importantly the course develops your skills at designing urban public spaces, especially with respect to the creation and landscape design of attractive spaces.

    By the end of this module, you should be able to:

    Design or redesign urban public space in a way that shows an understanding of and a sensitivity towards spatial relationships, landscape, and the behaviour and interests of people using the space.
    Discuss intelligently the various factors (social as well as physical) which contribute to success and failure of the public realm; so that the design of public spaces is seen within the context of a given social way of life and, in particular, the extent to which that way of life is permeated by public or private concerns.
    Aesthetics and Urban Design Theory

    This module will provide an introductory overview to the nature and status of urban design theory as a whole, examining such matters as the relationship between physical urban form, and human behaviour and well-being, including the vexed issue of physical or environmental determinism in town planning and architectural thought. The topic of  'design and crime' will be examined as a particular example to illustrate claims and counter-claims about the relationship between the physical form of the built environment and human behaviour, and as a vehicle for highlighting important questions about the nature and status of theory in relation to urban design.

    Within the context of this general introduction to urban design theory, this course/module will then concentrate on ideas and theory about the aesthetic aspects of urban form and design. It will examine what 'aesthetics' - and hence the 'aesthetic' aspect of urban design - is or might be about, how given townscapes and/or urban designs can be analysed in terms of their aesthetic content, and how we might conceive the main components of the aesthetic aspects of urban design. The module will also examine the alleged subjectivity of aesthetics, and whether this undermines rational debate about the aesthetics of urban design. In relation to this issue, the course will examine the general field of studies into environmental psychology and perception, and whether such studies can provide firmer, more scientific grounds for developing better theory for urban design, both in general, and in relation to the aesthetics of urban design in particular.

    Planning and Design Quality

    “Good design is indivisible from good planning.”

    Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, (ODPM) (2005) Planning Policy Statement 1 Paragraph 33.
    The quotation above, taken from central government's latest government policy statement on planning, succinctly sums up the current thinking on the importance of good design. The plethora of publications produced in the last few years by the ODPM, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and many other bodies, reinforces the ODPM's message that good design is essential to the achievement of sustainable communities. The module Planning and Design Quality, in responding to this agenda, addresses the complex question: what is quality in the built environment? It explores the objectives of urban design that together can combine to create high quality places but also recognises the factors that militate against the creation of good quality and considers how these impediments can be overcome through planning and urban design strategies. At the end of the module you should be aware of all the tools that can be used by planners to stimulate a high standard of design and be able to negotiate good design solutions.
    Central to the module is the activity of place-making, in recognition that planners have an important role in achieving development that will stand the test of time, meet the needs of the diverse population and create places that will reflect 21st century aspirations.

    Masterplanning and Urban Regeneration

    This module is intended to develop and extend your skills in the professional practice of urban design. In collaboration with local authority partners, you will be introduced to a 'live' project that requires urban design expertise.

    Working in conjunction with the local authority, and other project stakeholders, you will formulate urban design strategies in response to a collectively developed brief. The strategies adopted will be directly related to the project circumstances but may include: masterplanning, design guidance, public realm design, etc.

    Please note that the running of this module is subject to the availability of an agreed project with a local authority.

    Housing and Urban Design

    This module addresses the role of urban design in relation to housing. As a major physical component of any settlement, with far-reaching social, environmental and economic consequences, the layout and design of housing plays a crucial part in the establishment of successful, vibrant communities. Urban design itself has an important role in relation to guiding and framing the residential fabric of our cities so that it supports positive social, environmental and economic outcomes. In this module you will explore this role and develop your urban design skills through a small housing project.

    Design in Sensitive Areas

    This module aims to give you the experience of balancing the need to ensure that a development is economically, structurally and functionally feasible whilst fitting into an historic street scene. The module focuses on design using development in a historic context. You have to take on the role of developer, architect, highway engineer and urban designer and thus have to undertake financial appraisal and building design as well as townscape analysis and detailed site planning. Lectures and workshops related to the necessary skills support the design project that is central to the module.

    The complexities of the design and development process are explored in through case studies. Conservation projects and strategies in Britain are evaluated in depth and are compared with schemes in another member state of the European Union. This comparative element requires a residential study visit to a European city; Barcelona, Berlin and Lisbon have been used on a number of occasions. You prepare detailed reports analysing conservation projects from the point of view of aims, organisation, funding, impacts and appraisal of the designs.

    Sustainable Design

    This module is about design strategies for achieving sustainable development. 'Design' in this context is the planning and design of a major urban extension on land within the mainly built up area of the Bristol conurbation. The focus is on producing a masterplan for the area. Masterplanning is a skill that is at the core of what an urban designer claims to be able to do. The masterplan is a tool of implementation, a means of converting planning policy into practical developments. Sustainable development is a more problematic concept. As now defined by the United Nations, the European Union and the UK Government it is an all-embracing principle that should underpin all policy areas, industrial production and our decisions about life-style. It is immensely ambitious, seeing new development, cities, indeed the world, in holistic terms – all of us as part of an integrated, interconnected web of existence. The recent UK sustainable development strategy document Securing the Future defines the purpose of the strategy as

    “to enable all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life without compromising the quality of life of future generations."

    The Government argues that it is not a matter of achieving environmental sustainability or social equity or a sustainable economy, but of working positively towards all three at the same time, not a “winner takes all” approach, but “win-win-win”.

    The problem is the conversion of rhetoric into action. This is where this module comes in. How can we plan the spatial development of an area so as to give the maximum opportunity for reducing unsustainable practice and constructing a sustainable future? Note that word opportunity. As designers we do not determine how people choose to live, but we do open up or close down desirable choices. That is the challenge.

    Research for Policy and Practice

    This module is common to all postgraduate courses in the Faculty and prepares you for the dissertation.


    The dissertation which can either be of conventional written format or contain a high design content.

    Pattern and duration of study
    The course starts with a short induction programme, in late September, when formal enrolment takes place. The full MA course can be taken on a part-time or full-time basis; part-time over 28 months, with attendance on two days per fortnight, full-time over 12 months with formal contact on two days per week. Modules are studied between late September and the end of the following May. The period from May to September is mainly devoted to work on the dissertation.

    Virtually all assessment is by coursework only, on the basis of individual work or joint work. The dissertation in the Master's element is a major individual piece of work on a topic that reflects your own area of interest. The study can be undertaken in a variety of appropriate ways and may include exhibitions, models, video and design schemes, supported by a report, as well as a more conventional written dissertation.

    The Graduate School

    The Faculty's Graduate School was established in 2005. Its main purpose is to foster an active graduate community, encompassing students on postgraduate taught courses and students undertaking research degrees. There are currently around 700 postgraduate students (400 attending and 300 distance learning) on taught courses, and about 40 postgraduate research students. The Graduate School has dedicated space in the Faculty's building on the main campus, with teaching accommodation, a kitchen and informal areas. The work of the Graduate School is based on the Faculty's extensive research programmes, and on the innovativeness and high quality of its teaching. Student advisers for all postgraduate courses are located in the Graduate School Office, and they are your first point of contact if you have any problems or need information. The Student Handbook is also an essential source of information.

    You may also use the well equipped laboratories for concrete and environmental services, environmental physics, earth sciences, spatial analysis (including mapping and Geographical Information Systems) and surveying technology, each with specialist technicians supporting both teaching and research. An audio-visual group provides support for photography, digital imaging, filming and sound recording.

    The Faculty has invested in online and offline computer-based resources to support modules, and especially those offered by distance learning. You also have access to a vast number of journals and databases online through the Bristol UWE library. The library and some computer labs on campus are open 24 hours, and the Faculty's suite of computer rooms supports software for word processing, data analysis, spatial analysis, computer aided design and other specialist software required by our students.

    Students with disabilities

    We welcome applications from people with disabilities.

    Following is some information about the types of activities that the course normally involves. We are committed to supporting students with disabilities, and wherever possible we will make reasonable adjustments to these activities to enable students with disabilities to successfully complete the course. We encourage applicants to disclose any disabilities or support needs in their applications forms, so that we can offer information, advice and support. There is a Disability Resource Centre at Bristol UWE and a Disability Support Co-ordinator in the Faculty.

    -Use a computer
    -Read and produce drawings, plans and maps
    -Visually inspect buildings and locations, including physical movement around and through buildings and locations
    -Participate in field courses or activities away from the University
    -Measure distances and sizes of buildings, materials or sites
    -Team working and negotiation
    -Take part in discussions and presentations

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