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    Urban Design

    School of Architecture, Faculty of Social Sciences

    Collaborate with local and global communities to rethink the way that cities and neighbourhoods are designed in this studio-based course.
    Urban Design postgraduates working on a project in the community

    Course description

    Urban design professionals are in high demand. We'll help you to develop design skills that relate to a broader social, environmental and economic context to enable you to link individual architectural projects with overall planning strategies.

    Central to the course is the design studio project where you'll work with local communities and study core modules on urban design theory and practice. You'll be able to explore a range of themes through optional modules and you'll take part in study trips and thematic workshops.

    You’ll be encouraged to critically examine the key urban development challenges that cities are facing today. You can explore local urban areas in Sheffield and compare these with other UK and international contexts in Europe as well as in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. You'll also investigate the role of designers and citizens in the processes of city making.

    By joining one of the UK's top schools of architecture you'll also be part of a vibrant and creative community that positively influences architectural policies which address public and professional needs. As a Sheffield student you'll engage with real issues affecting the built environment. You'll be encouraged to provide social and environmental solutions to the challenges of our time.

    You can complete the programme as a full-time course over one year or you may also study it as a part-time course over two years, with timetabled learning on a single week day. The part-time course is especially suitable for built environment and design professionals who wish to continue working throughout their studies.

    Applying for this course

    We use a staged admissions process to assess applications for this course. You'll still apply for this course in the usual way, using our Postgraduate Online Application Form.

    What to include with your application


    A selection of modules is available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    Core modules:

    Urban Design Project 1

    This unit is one in a sequence of studio based modules. It introduces students to the specific skills and design knowledge required for urban design in combination with design research methodologies and allows them to be developed through studio-based urban design projects.

    15 credits
    Urban Design Project 2

    This unit is the second in a sequence of three which are studio based. It develops the students' urban design skills that have been introduced in Urban Project 1 and put an emphasis on combining these skills with participatory design techniques.

    30 credits
    Urban Design Project 3: Thesis Project

    This unit is the third in a sequence of three which are studio based. It allows students to develop their own urban design project with participatory approaches. The project is based on individual research themes and combines knowledge and skills gained from all previous units required for the programme. It is the equivalent to the thesis dissertation in a non-studio based Masters.

    60 credits
    Participation in Architecture and Urban Design

    The unit introduces the history, theory and application of participation in architecture and urban design. Based on a critical analysis of precedents, students will be expected to develop their own participatory methods for use in urban design

    15 credits
    Trajectories in Spatial Practices

    This unit focuses on exploring the emergent and potential roles of spatial (such as urban design and architecture) practitioners, and on relating them to the students' own learning experience, both within practice and within the School of Architecture. The unit will be broad ranging, looking at the unprecedented scale and complexity of conditions that are shaping the built environment globally, creating the need for a critical evaluation of the methods, tools, and design culture that surrounds the context of spatial practices. The module will discuss the consequences of these conditions on the spatial practices, and will invite students to speculate using design methods on the potential trajectories that they could take in the future as spatial practitioners. Assessments will be based on a reflection of the student's individual experiences and future aspirations. This unit is also suitable for students taking a part-time route whilst continuing to work in practice. It is also suitable as an optional module for the MArch course. It will also be offered as a CPD module.

    15 credits
    Urban Design Tools and Methods

    This unit is one in a sequence of studio based modules. It introduces students to the specific skills, tools and design knowledge required for urban design in combination with design research methodologies and allows them to be developed through studio-based urban design projects.

    15 credits
    Histories and Theories of Urban Design

    This unit provides an introduction to the diverse concepts, theories and practices of urban design, illustrated by examples and case studies from different historical, political, geographical and environmental periods and areas. Using theoretical lenses, rather than a chronological approach, the course explores how similar urban forms have been used and reused, reinterpreted, adapted and challenged by different social, economic and political groups in different localities across different geographies and scales to meet differing needs, behaviours and rituals. The emphasis is on developing a situated and grounded understanding of urban design.

    15 credits
    Urban Design Thesis Proposal

    Delivered through a combination of lectures, small group seminars and tutorials, this module allows students to develop and design their design research framework for the upcoming Urban Design Thesis Project. The students are asked to prepare a research proposal that includes a detailed literature study and research methodology.

    The aim of the unit is to develop students' knowledge and skills regarding a wide range of key urban design research methods. The students are encouraged to develop the subject of their enquiry in relation to their research projects and career aspirations. The students are asked to align their thesis topics with thematic research groups that will form the basis of their contribution to urban design knowledge.

    15 credits

    Optional modules:

    Conservation and Regeneration Principles and Approaches

    This module introduces a range of theoretical and practical approaches to architectural design interventions in the historic built environment. It will explore conceptual and philosophical debates within architectural conservation and heritage studies, addressing the conflicting and complementary approaches that have historically been employed. You will be encouraged to develop a critical understanding of conservation and built heritage issues and to evaluate the role of architectural conservation in historical rural and urban regeneration.

    15 credits
    Critical Spatial Writing

    Critical spatial writing understands space as an entanglement of exchanges, conflicts, and negotiations. The sites of architecture, whether a city, frontier, room or encounter, are viewed both as subjects of research and spaces for intervention. With readings, lectures and group seminars, the module will provide an introduction to critical spatial writing through an exploration of contemporary arts, architectures and urban interventions with particular attention to issues such as difference and diversity, decolonisation, ecology and intersectional feminism. It will examine different forms of writing about architecture and how we might write about space critically, creatively and relationally. Each session is organised around a number of set texts for lecture delivery, and student-led writing / discussion.

    15 credits
    Power, Space, Society

    The unit focuses on socio-political, economical, ideological and cultural factors shaping and influencing buildings and cities. In a tradition of critical theory, this module analyses hidden aspects of built environment causing social exclusion / inclusion and oppression / emancipation. Through lectures and group seminars, the module will provide an introduction to critical analyses of built environment in a global context. Each session is organised around a particular issue analysed in diverse contexts.

    15 credits
    Reflections on Architectural Education

    This module is for those students taking the MArch in Architecture or other Masters programmes offered by the Departments. It aims to explore the wider context of architectural education as well as studying current thinking on the techniques for tutoring and reviewing in the design studio. Students undertaking this module would gain first hand experience of these techniques through assisting in the teaching of undergraduate students within the department. Assessment will take the form of a self reflective essay about their experience of helping to teach undergraduate architectural students, with reference to appropriate literature.

    15 credits
    Theory and Research in Design

    This module aims to develop the student's overall understanding of contemporary matters and theories pertinent to architectural design and built environment issues, such as climate change and social justice. Students will develop an interdisciplinary and contemporary understanding of architecture, design, society and environment, with an emphasis on theory as a tool to open debate and provoke designerly thought and activity on alternative views and approaches to architecture and design.

    The module consists of lectures that introduce and describe contemporary concepts and theories applicable to built environment, architecture, and design research, in tandem with seminars through the Theory Forum, a conference hosted annually by the Sheffield School of Architecture, focusing each year on a theme of contemporary relevance for architectural theory and practice.

    The aim of the module is to develop the student's ability to write in a way that deals with complex issues, and that addresses the outcomes of the module.

    15 credits
    Southern Urbanisms: Decolonial Perspectives on 'Global South' Cities

    This module aims to decolonise architectural and urban theory by engaging with Southern perspectives currently relevant in contemporary urbanisation to understand cities both in Global South and North. Built environment professionals need more awareness of the diversity of cultures and values in relation to how cities are being shaped, and thereby generate a 'pluriversal' sensitivity. Given that Northern theories often fail to articulate southern urban contexts due to difference in empirics, this module engages with both canonical and emerging conceptualisations from/on Global South cities, and Southern positions in/on Global North through lectures, seminars and a reflective essay. The module provides the necessary research skills to navigate across multiple disciplinary discourses (urban studies, geography, international development), analyse and draw insights for informing architectural and urban design processes in Global South / Southern contexts.

    15 credits
    Spaces of Feminism

    The module aims to introduce students to the relationship between space and feminist frameworks  to include questions of intersectionality, care, displacement, development, and environment. 

    Starting from a feminist perspective of space developed in the Western context, the module expands to distinct geographies to engage nuanced approaches to the question of otherness - including feminist perspectives on 'other modernities' (socialist, 'Eastern', 'Southern' and so forth). Through lectures and group seminars, the module explores contexts of geographies of the Global East and Global South to discuss their intersecting histories of feminism and space. The focus will be on postsocialist and postcolonial contexts to address wide-ranging themes, debates around embodiment and lived experience as the basis for a conception of space that examines questions of the gendered, political, racialized, and so forth dimensions of spatial experience and their intertwining. Each session is organised around a thematic lecture and followed by group discussion around a number of prerequisite text readings.

    15 credits
    Managing Climate Change

    This module aims to provide students with a strong understanding of the social and physical science of climate change with relevance to international development. This understanding is then applied to consider the challenge of living with climate change in the Global South. The module is taught through seminars and lectures. Lectures introduce and impart factual knowledge while seminars allow discussion and an emphasis on applying key concepts to practical situations. Together these structure students' learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the wide ranging literature on climate change.

    15 credits
    Narrative Futures: Architecture and Society

    Narrative Futures explores the history and practice of speculative thought in architecture. It reviews the genealogy of architectural projects and practices that have used temporality, especially futurology, as their main methodology and output. Narrative Futures aims to equip students with an understanding of the way that architecture has been and continues to be used as a form of narrative to imagine, caution, motivate and stir conversations on critical social issues. With readings, lectures, and seminars, the module follows a series of historical and contemporary case studies of speculative and critical architecture, contextualising them in their social and political context and performing a close analysis of their narrative and communication tools. Historical awareness is used to support students in understanding the potential of narrative and futures in their own design projects.  

    15 credits
    Situated Data

    Situated Data explores the entanglements of data, space and society. It aims to equip architects and urban designers with the conceptual and methodological tools to dissect data and understand the way that it is made manifest in buildings and infrastructures which have shifted our understanding of space and cities. The module draws on feminist theory to understand the way data is part of complex symbolic and material networks which determine the way it has developed historically and the hopes, aspirations and anxieties that determine how we imagine them and locate their potential in transforming buildings and cities. With reading, lectures, seminars and workshops, the module will follow a series of data technologies and test sites and explore the way they were historically developed, how they are spatialised, and the agency that architects and urbanists have in defining the way they evolve and are used.

    15 credits

    The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


    • 1 year full-time
    • 2 years part-time


    Your learning and teaching will involve neighbourhood walks, symposiums, lectures, student-led seminars and reflection sessions supported by tutorials, seminars and workshops. The course ends with an individual thesis that brings together all the modules.


    You’ll be assessed on course assignments and a final design thesis or written dissertation.


    School of Architecture

    Come to Sheffield and join some of the best architecture students in the UK - our students have won prizes at the RIBA Student Awards and the Royal Academy Summer Show. They've been shortlisted in the European Architecture Medals and the Inspiring Graduate Awards. Our staff are doing world-class research, helping to make the school a leader in our field across the UK and internationally.

    We believe in architecture that makes a difference. We know that it has the potential to improve the lives of those who inhabit and use it.

    Through our internationally-acclaimed teaching and research, we explore the social, spatial and environmental implications of architecture. As a Sheffield student, you will engage with real issues affecting the built environment.

    We encourage you to explore ideas and collaborate with other students. Through group tutorials and peer review you'll learn how to express your opinions, and value the opinions of others. Sheffield is the perfect place to develop your personality as a designer.

    We provide a balance of theory, design work and professional experience. We have a strong design studio culture. The studio acts as a laboratory for trialling your creative and critical ideas, and for developing fundamental architectural skills. You'll share ideas during group tutorials and review other students' work. This encourages you to express your own opinion and to value the opinions of others, as you begin to develop your personality as a designer.

    Student profiles

    The MA in Urban Design has given me a good understanding of the context of development and it introduced me to the economical, political, social and environmental landscape which we all live and work in. The course has made me appreciate what’s around me, and the way space is designed has such a big impact on the way it is used.

    Becky Knighton
    MA Urban Design

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in a subject related to design in the built environment, such as architecture, landscape architecture or urban planning.

    You should also provide a portfolio which includes a custom assignment. Here's what to include with your application.

    We will also consider your application if your degree is not design based but you have considerable professional design experience.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.


    We use a staged admissions process to assess applications for this course. You'll still apply for this course in the usual way, using our Postgraduate Online Application Form.

    Apply now


    +44 114 222 0349

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

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