Theory and History of Urban Design - AR848

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Spring 7 30 (15) DR A Powers checkmark-circle
Spring 7 30 (15) DR A Powers checkmark-circle


This module explores the idea of the city, and the major concepts related to urban life. It analyses and determines the conditions of their emergence within a broader cultural context. It traces how these concepts have changed through time, with the aim of enhancing our present understanding of cities and their regeneration. It follows the development of city planning and the establishment of planned, ideal cities as a political goal up to the foundation of new towns. In its dealing with historically modern cities, the module centres on case studies of cities representative of urbanism from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries, drawing lessons from the methods and types of documentation used in its development. The course also introduces the manner in which architecture has generated a number of spontaneous and critical responses to the demands of the city in the past four decades. The arguments are drawn from sources in architectural and urban theory, philosophy, art history, anthropology, literary sources and social sciences.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours


Method of assessment

4000 word essay (100%)

Indicative reading

Fishman, R. (1982). Urban Utopias of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge (MA) and London: MIT.
Hall, P. (1998). Cities in Civilisation, London: Phoenix Orion.
Kostof, S. (1991). The City Assembled, London and New York: Thames & Hudson.
LeGates, R. & Stout, F. (eds) (2011). The City Reader. London and New York: Routledge.
Sassen, S. (2001) The Global City: New York,. London, Tokyo. Princeton: NJ: Princeton
University Press.
Soja, E. (2000). Postmetropolis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions. Oxford: Blackwell.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

8.1 Demonstrate a systematic understanding, knowledge and critical awareness of current philosophies of urban design, architecture, the history of ideas, and the related disciplines of cultural studies, art and landscape studies, and their original application in contemporary debate.

8.2 Critically appraise and form considered judgements about spatial, aesthetic, technical and the social qualities of an urban design proposal within the scope and scale of wider advanced environmental studies.

8.3 Comprehensively understand the complexity of influences on the contemporary built environment of individual buildings, the design of cities, transport infrastructure, past and present societies and wider global issues including climate change.

8.4 Systematically understand the development of major nineteenth and twentieth century cities, including new and theoretical cities.

8.5 Critically appraise and form considered judgements about the nature of the physical development of these cities in the light of their historical, social, political and technological context.

8.6 Understand critically the influences on the development of these cities on conceptual and political approaches to urban planning in the mid-twentieth century and beyond, until present Develop skills of understanding how big cities work and develop.

9.1 Creatively apply theories, research and analysis to the ideas, development and quality of a project.

9.2 Communicate effectively using a range of communication skills

9.3 Comprehensively understand the nature of differing types of documentation used in planning and analysis.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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