module specification

AR7009 - Urban Design and Spatial Planning (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Urban Design and Spatial Planning
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 40
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 400
319 hours Guided independent study
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 75%   Portfolio: A portfolio of student-produced work addressing the tasks and criteria as set in the assessment brief.
Coursework 20%   Research report: A report, blog, website or other appropriate document addressing the tasks and criteria.
Coursework 5%   Design thesis abstract: An illustrated essay addressing the tasks and criteria as set in the assessment brief.
Running in 2023/24

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

In this module students engage in two components: urban research for spatial planning, and design practice. The research component of the module includes a generic element, ensuring that students understand the research and analysis is required to provide an evidence base for spatial planning decisions, and an element specific to their specialism, strategy or urban design. Students produce a project-based portfolio of an aspect of architecture and urban design underpinned by an appropriate research-led evidence base. It is the MA Architecture and Urbanism core studio module in which students experience the research and design process, and how it relates to the decision-making they observe in planning, urban scale design problems and urban scale thinking in the related module AR7010 Urban Practice. 

Module aims component 1: Research for Spatial Planning

The aim of the research component of the module is to provide students with knowledge of the variety of research conducted in the field and the skills required to conduct quantitative, qualitative and other research methods including action research and design research, to provide the base for developing spatial planning policies. This also includes sourcing, understanding and using other data and information:

• to understand why spatial planning, spatial, house and economic strategy, and urban design may require an evidence base as well as other forms of research to underpin policy development;
• to provide students with the knowledge to determine the range of information and interpretation required for projects and plans;
• to enable students to either commission or conduct research;
• to enable students to critically assess and speculate upon the validity and reliability of research and analysis conducted by others;

Module aims component 2: Urban Design

• to provide students with an understanding of urban design;
• to critically assess a range of elements and design methods of urban design;
• to equip students with a range of drawn/graphic techniques of communication appropriate for working in urban design contexts;
• to enable students to prepare an urban design portfolio on an aspect of urban design or in relation to a specific urban design project or proposal.


The module will cover the definitions, perceptions and scope of spatial planning and urban design, as well as the research evidence base for developing policies in spatial planning and urban design - including speculative methodologies of action research and design research. Using local, regional case studies, it will cover some historical and contemporary urban design, city form, planning theory and practice, historic buildings and conservation, transport infrastructure, sustainable communities and social infrastructure, local and national economy, open space and landscape architecture, zoning and mixed use, social behaviour and civic life. The module will include examination of major project examples in the capital, both existing, and proposed by students. There will also be an opportunity to situate London examples within an international context. Students will apply this learning to propose their own urban designs, research, methods and analysis. LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4,LO5,LO6

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Scheduled teaching ensures that independent study is effective and addresses the learning outcomes and assessment tasks. Students are expected to, and have the opportunity to continue with their studies outside of scheduled classes. There will be a range of learning strategies deployed and individual learning styles will be accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, have been scrutinised and will be regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive approach to pedagogic practice.

The module and course utilise the University’s blended learning platform to support and reinforce learning, to foster peer-to-peer communication and to facilitate tutorial support for students. Reflective learning is promoted through assessment items and interim formative feedback points that ask students to reflect on their progress, seek help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes, and make recommendations to themselves for future development. Throughout the module, students build a body of work, including reflections on progress and achievement.

The School’s programme of employability events and practice-focused learning within the curriculum supports students’ personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able to engage and challenge the intellectual and professional environment of their discipline, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module, students will be able to (LOs):

LOs component 1: Research for Spatial Planning

1. understand why spatial planning, housing strategy and urban design require an evidence base as well as a range of other methods to underpin policy development. determine information required for projects and plans;
2. commission or conduct research;
3. critically evaluate and speculate upon research and analysis conducted by others;

LOs Component 2: Urban Design

4. understand the theory and practice of urban design;
5. speculate upon and assess key elements of urban design;
6. demonstrate through the preparation of an urban design portfolio an ability to creatively and critically evaluate at least one key element of urban design.

Assessment strategy

The module is assessed by a design/ research portfolio and a minimum of one accompanying research report, at the end of the academic year. The two strands of learning within the module (research and design) are intertwined: the first (research report) analyses what already exists, and the second (portfolio) takes this new knowledge and applies it to a real-world problem.

The research report(s) will contain a description, analysis and critical evaluation of the student(s)’ primary and secondary urban research, using methods and methodology appropriately designed to underpin the portfolio design project.

The portfolio will include a range of diagrams, architectural and urban drawings and models, developed for the urban design process. It will include evidence of related activities students have undertaken e.g. research, consultation, exhibitions etc. and how these activities have contributed towards the design project. Evidence in the portfolio is required of development of the work and how decisions have been reached, based on research and related activities, including design research. The portfolio must be carefully organised, edited and clearly labelled to express the narrative of the student’s project.

The assessment criteria are based on how well the student has fulfilled the learning outcomes. The research-specific learning outcomes (LO2, LO3 and LO4) will be assessed through the research report. All learning outcomes will be assessed through the portfolio, since it is expected that it will integrate the findings from the research report into a design-based proposal. The learning outcomes will be assessed in terms of critical and analytical skill, range, depth, creativity, understanding of theory and practice, accuracy and execution.


The following are indicative only.  Refereed journals/articles and electronic resources are issued according to the project brief for the year:
Brymann, A. (2015) Social Research Methods, 5th edition, (Oxford University Press)
Carmona, M. & Tiesdell, S. (2015) Urban Design Reader, (Routledge)
Cowan, R. (2002) Urban Design Guidance, (ICE Publishing)
Cullen, G. (1961) The Concise Townscape, (Van Norstrand)
Cullingworth, B. and Nadin, V. (2014) Town and Country Planning, 15th edition, (Routledge)
Dovey, K. (2016) Urban Design Thinking, (Bloomsbury Academic)
Edwards, M., J. Ferm & E. Jones (2017) “Revealing Local Economies in London: Methodological Challenges, Future Directions,” (Bartlett School of Planning)
Farrelly, L. (2011) Drawing for Urban Design, (Laurence King)
Frederick, M. (2018) 101 Things I learned in Urban Design School, (Three Rivers Press)
Gehl, J. (2010) Cities for People, (Island Press)
Gehl, J. (2011) Life Between Buildings: Using Public Spaces, 6th Edition, (Island Press)
Kitchen, T. (2007) Skills for Planning Practice, (Palgrave Macmillan)
Larice, M. & E. Macdonald (2012) The Urban Design Reader, 2nd Edition, (Routledge)
LeGates, R. & F. Stout, (eds) (2011)The City Reader, 5th Edition, (Routledge)
Mirafteb, F. & N. Kudva (2014) Cities of the Global South Reader, 1st Edition, (Routledge)
Price, C. (2003) The Square Book, (Wiley Academy)
Ritchie, J. & Lewis, J. (2013) Qualitative Research Practice, 2nd edition, (Sage)
Roberts, M. (1974) An Introduction to Town Planning Techniques (Hutchinson)
Zell, M. (2018) Architectural Drawing Course: Tools and Techniques for 2D and 3D Representation, 2nd edition, (Barron’s Educational)