MSc Urban Design and International Planning / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Urban Design Studio

Course unit fact file
Unit code PLAN60981
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Planning and Environmental Management
Available as a free choice unit? No


The course runs over 11 weeks (excluding study week 6) and is broadly split into three parts: 1. Neighbourhood Analysis, 2. Site Specific Analysis and 3. Developing Concepts and Visions. The course is designed to be a practically based, complementing the urban design theory that is taught as part of the International Urban Design (PLAN 60491). The course is supported by the Urban Design toolkit (online) which offers students a series of step by step guides to all of the techniques discussed.

The entire course is based on individual marked coursework. This will be focused around a study of a local neighbourhood in and around Greater Manchester and a small 1- 2 hectare site within that area. Students will present their ongoing analysis at three presentations during the semester, each time demonstrating how the analysis work has influenced their approaches and obtaining feedback from the studio teaching team.

Collectively the course will provide students a range of techniques that they can use for projects and modules taught over the remainder of their course, including dissertations, and in their professional careers. It is a vital pre-requisite for urban design modules in the second semester, specifically Urban Design Project (PLAN60722) and Masterplanning Studio (PLAN 60992).


This course aims to introduce students to both the purpose and the process of urban design analysis.  The course aims to explore and explain a variety of internationally recognised urban analysis techniques which can be used across a variety of different spatial scales (sub-regional, neighbourhood and site) to understand the urban environment and also explores how these should be presented clearly and precisely. It goes on to consider how this analysis can be used to make informed and evidenced judgements about urban design interventions through the use of urban design concepts and design briefs. The course will also introduce students to the wider urban design profession, and its practice in the UK context.

Teaching and learning methods

Each week students will participate in a three hour taught session (known as the Studio) which will be a mix of short lectures on a particular process or technique, seminars looking at worked examples and culminating in a workshop(s) applying the technique. As a practical course, the workshops involve undertaking a series of worked examples based on a site (or sites) outside of Greater Manchester. 
Students will then be required to take the techniques and skills developed in the sessions and apply them to individual sites studied for their individual project work. Students will present this work on two occasions during the course, allowing them to practice and prefect their presentation techniques and obtain valuable advice and feedback from the studio team, prior to a final formal presentation in week 12. Additional surgery sessions are built into the timetable to allow students to discuss individual projects with the teaching staff and allow for sharing of ideas, techniques and approaches between students.
In order to support students, an online toolkit has been developed which includes detailed, step-by-step instructions for how to undertake the techniques that have been taught in the studio sessions, supported by a series of practice exercises and videos. This allows students to focus again on key matters, hone their techniques and learn at their own pace.

Knowledge and understanding

• Understand urban analysis methods for urban design and their role as the foundation for interventions;
• Understand the different scales at which urban design operates and appropriate analysis techniques for each scale;
• Understand the way the information and evidence is gathered for urban design projects, and how this can be used to influence ideas for a particular site
• Understand and be able to articulate, the difference between urban design analysis, concept and brief / vision.

Intellectual skills

• Explore the purpose and role of analysis in the urban design process
• Explore the various urban design decision making paradigms to arrive at urban design interventions

Practical skills

• Develop skills in articulating and expressing urban design themes and theories both verbally and graphically.
• Develop a competence in a variety of hand drawn and computer generated graphical techniques
• Develop skills in interpreting sites and neighbourhoods through primary research (Site visits).

Transferable skills and personal qualities

• Develop logical, justified  and evidence led analysis and decision making
• Arrive at greater proficiency in verbal and graphical communication
• Begin the development an urban design portfolio for future applications for jobs and research.

Assessment methods

Neighbourhood Analysis: Minimum of 4 A3 sheets (or equivalent) (10%)

Site Specific Analysis: 1 X A1 sheet (20%)

Final Analysis Presentation including concepts and development and brief/vision: 3 x A1 sheet (70%)

Feedback methods

Feedback is provided at regular intervals through the course using a number of different methods to allow students the maximum opportunity to both receive feedback on a one-to-one basis from the teaching team and learn from one another.

Informal Feedback via Surgeries: At set points over the course of the module time will be set aside for the students (either individually or as groups) to present draft work and ideas to members of the teaching team for comment and suggestion.  Informal feedback will be provided on these occasions focused on how to improve the work presented.

The Crits and Verbal Feedback: Weeks 4 and 9 offer an opportunity for the students to present interim work based on a specific element of their final submission. Student will print off and pin up their work in the studio. This allows the teaching team to provide detailed feedback on their work to-date, make suggestions for changes (often sketching and drawing on their submission). Feedback from this can be used to improve the quality of the final submission in week 12.

Written Feedback: Final feedback on the Presentation in week 12 will be in full written format through Tii. The teaching team will provide written feedback as well as notes and suggestions online to allow students to better understand how they can improve their work in the future. Students going on to modules in semester 2 can benefit from this detailed feedback.

Recommended reading

Black and Sonbli (2019) The Urban Design Porcess

Meeda et al (2009) Graphics for Urban Design.

UDGCho et al (2016) Reframing urban space, Routledge

Glynn et al (1985) Responsive Environments, Routledge

Farrely (2011) Drawing for Urban Design

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 50
Practical classes & workshops 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 230

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Robert Phillips Unit coordinator

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