The Bartlett Development Planning Unit



Sixty Years of Urban Development Education, Training, Research and Consultancy

In 1953, a conference was held at UCL on architecture and planning in the tropical developing countries of the Global South.

The Architectural Association School of Architecture in London then launched an annual 6-month Postgraduate Diploma course in tropical architecture. It was first led by Maxwell Fry and then Otto Koenigsberger. 

Over the following decade the Diploma course developed in response to the rapidly changing scene in the Global South. To reflect this, the Department changed its name to Development and Tropical Studies in 1968 and in 1969 the Diploma in Urban Development Planning was launched. 

In 1971, it moved to UCL, changing its name to The Development Planning Unit (DPU) and Koenigsberger became the first University of London Professor of Urban Development. 

The Post Graduate Diploma in Urban Development Planning became its flagship programme, attracting mid-career professionals from different parts of the world. 

A highly successful programme of specialist professional short courses in a range of urban development issues was run throughout the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. 

In 1980 the DPU launched the Masters Degree course in Urban Development Planning, which ran alongside the postgraduate Diploma course and the specialist programmes throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

The PhD programme took off in the mid-1980s and the Unit’s applied research and consultancy activities have grown consistently. 

  • The 1990s saw an expansion in the MSc programmes offered by the DPU, starting In 1993 with the launch of two new MSc programmes that became known as the MSc in Urban Economic Development and the MSc in Building and Urban Design in Development. 
  • This was followed in 1995 by a new MSc in Development Administration and Planning, in 1997 by what became known as the MSc Environment and Sustainable Development, and in 1999 by an MSc in Social Development Practice. 
  • From the end of the 1990s, the DPU’s research programme grows rapidly into the trans-disciplinary portfolio of research is carries out today. 60 years after its first postgraduate course, the DPU is one of the world’s leading institutions in urban and regional development planning, urban design, the city economy, social development practice, gender in policy and planning, and environment and sustainable development.

Founder of the DPU

Otto Koenigsberger was one of the founders of modern urban development planning in the rapidly growing cities of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

He was a polymath, whose contributions ranged from building physics and design in tropical climates to the formulation of self-help policies for the improvement of urban slums; from the planning and building of new towns to the development of national urban policies in the context of rapid growth and change; from advising on professional and technical training to the establishment of university institutions.

Above all, he was a teacher.

Patrick Wakely, The Guardian, 26 Jan 1999 (Obituary).

60 Years of Urban Development: A Short History of the DPU Booklet

Read or the booklet charting the DPU's history over the past 60 years.