The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Urban Intervention Studio

This 'practice' module of the MSc Building and Urban Design in Development is truly trans-disciplinary in nature and starts from the concerns of local communities.

This is a practice-based module delivered through studio teaching that involves collaborative and reflexive learning. It provides an opportunity for students to put into practice their theoretical and methodological learning as they tackle a sequence of projects through a learning-by-doing as basis for the design research approach. 

Various analysis methodologies are introduced and used as a vehicle to conduct detailed investigation and interpretative responses. Through the exploration of alternative modes of urban engagement and action research practices, students work towards developing, designing and visualising their urban design interventions that are grounded in the principles of social and environmental justice. Three core projects are introduced:

  • A studio based case study that is studied remotely; this may involve investigating one or two study areas using an analytical framework to guide students through the research design process.
  • A short three day BUDD camp that takes students to a European city to discover and tackle how social-cultural tensions can manifest themselves in urban space, and how in turn, urban space impacts these social-spatial outcomes.
  • Later in the third term, students undertake a longer field expedition where they get the opportunity to work with local organisations and community groups who are delivering bottom-up processes of urban change. In the recent years the studio was conducted around cases in Cambodia, Thailand, India, the Philippines and Colombia.

Each project starts with a real live case, centered on addressing the concerns of local communities who are dealing with conflicting development agendas. This might entail the response to top-down redevelopment plans, the provision of housing for marginalised communities, land conflicts, risks of eviction, and other forms of social exclusion. These uneven patterns of investment, differences of class and ethnicity, and the quest for security contribute to the emergence of socio-spatial injustices at multiple scales which can be conceptualised as ‘boarder-making practices’. By exploring the multiplicity of urban boarders (their topological and topographical nature, agency and potential) in the context of two contested cities, the studio work unfolds in a process of distinct, yet overlapping and complementary phases, each designed to explore processes of spatial design research, using a comparative framework as a lens of analysis.

  • Urban Mapping and Actor Diagramming methods allow students to understand how different actors perceive a particular space. Uncovering and deciphering the relationships between key stakeholders involved in a situation is the first act in understanding the internal and external forces of a development process. Connecting spatial practices serves to facilitate a deeper understanding of societal and cultural nuances and encourages navigation and reflection through narratives of everyday life including different social constructs, built typologies and livelihoods
  • Before jumping to assumptions and immediate responses and interventions, students are asked to establish a foundation of Design Principles and Guidelines, considering various scales of intervention to better serve the formation of design proposals.
  • The exercise ends with students being asked to think of alternative Design Intervention Strategies, ones that can change the current experienced discourses and transform the negative realities of injustice, deprivation and unsustainability. These can be process-driven (related to governance) or a combination of architectural, design, political or social-spatial manifestations.
  • As a final wrap up, students are challenged to think on their positionality and are asked to create a portfolio. The portfolio is meant to be a reflective and critical collection of the work done during students will engage in a collective debate on the meaning and agency of the analyses and strategies developed throughout the previous phases.

Find out more

Follow these links to student blogs, showcasing work undertaken by recent BUDD groups. These blogs capture the outputs created during the course of the year and act as a platform for expressing group and individual reflections, challenges, and contradictions about conflicting and contested urbanisms in a broader-sense.


MSc BUDD 2013-2014 students blog 
Urban intervention Studio on Thailand. Fieldwork Project in Cambodia.


MSc BUDD 2012-2013 students blog 
Urban intervention Studio on the Philippines. Fieldwork Project in Thailand.


MSc BUDD 2011-2012 students blog 
Urban intervention Studio on Mumbai. Fieldwork Project in Thailand.


MSc BUDD 2010-2011 students blog 
Urban intervention Studio on Mumbai.


MSc BUDD 2008-2009 students blog 
Fieldwork Project in Mumbai, India.