Theories of Urban Design

Course content

The course focuses on selected theories and discourses about urban design. Urban design is here understood in a broad sense, encompassing visions and plans for the morphology of cities and the interplay with social and ecological sustainability (liveability and ecology). In other words, visions and ideas about the ideal city and good urban life through the last century are in the centre of this course. This is, however, a broad issue, and therefore the course will concentrate on three main themes:

- From pre-modern to post-modern urban design 
- Place making and the role of public space
- Sustainable urban development and urban landscapes

Central design paradigms, different approaches and view-points about how cities should be designed and transformed will be discussed. The contemporary city will be our case to throw light on how urban design concepts and models have been operationalised and have influenced practice. Academic reading and writing skills will be trained during the course.


MSc Programme in Landscape Architecture

Learning outcome

After completing the course, the students will know central paradigms, discourses, standpoints and approaches to urban design and -development, they will be able to use this knowledge in a critical-reflective way in analysing contemporary cities and in their own design work.

Students will obtain an understanding of central paradigms, approaches, theories and discourses about urban design in the 20th century and till today, understand central points of discussion between standpoints, their background and context, and their effect on contemporary cities.

At the end of the course the students will be trained in basic academic reading and writing skills. They will be able to use urban design theories in a critical-reflective way, and to develop positions of their own.
They will be able to show this ability in oral, written and graphic form.

At the end of the course the students shall be able to use theoretical points of reference when relating to issues of contemporary urban design.

The backbone of the course structure is colloquiums including students’ presentations of the day’s reading. Focus will be on central concepts of the texts, historcal context for each, and agreements and disagreements between them, to enhance the understanding of different views and approaches to urban development. This will be supplemented with lectures giving overviews or illustrating how different approaches have been implemented in urban development, and how different approaches affect contemporary cities. Visits to sites in Copenhagen combined with an exercise (graphically presented on boards) and a written assignment will illustrate consequences of design approaches in the contemporary city. It is essential that students complete the assigned readings before each class; each participant is responsible for contributing to the colloquiums.

A compendium with the texts used in course.

The city of Copenhagen outside the door.


Bachelor degree in landscape architecture, architecture, planning, geography or similar.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 15 minutes
Written assignment, during course
The written assignment is prepared during the course and must be handed in prior to the exam week. The oral exam uses the written assignment as its point of departure. It is supplemented by a list of exam questions related to the texts. Questions include the titles listed in the officially approved reading list. Part-exams are not weighted, and an overall assessment is is given after the oral exam.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examinators
Criteria for exam assessment

See 'Learning Outcome'.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 25
  • Exercises
  • 37
  • Excursions
  • 10
  • Exam
  • 15
  • Preparation
  • 119
  • English
  • 206