The Bartlett Development Planning Unit



Find out more about the modules you can study on the MSc Building & Urban Design in Development

The MSC BUDD course is structured so that 3 modules of 30 credits each are devoted to the core subjects of building and urban design, and 1 module of 30 credits (or 2 modules of 15 credits) to a specialist option chosen from those available in the DPU or The Bartlett. The theoretical and empirical framework that underpins the course is covered by the modules of the first term, which are extended to a more practical sphere during the second term.

Core modules

The compulsory modules are designed to provide the core building blocks that cultivate interdisciplinary professionals who can engage holistically in building better urban futures.

BENVGBU1 Transforming Local Areas: Urban Design for Development

This module aims to provide students with the building blocks to construct a theoretical and critical understanding of urban design. Fundamental for a renewed approach to undertaking an urban project, this module explores continental philosophy and post-structuralist critical thinking with the objective to develop and deepen students’ understanding of the complex, dynamic and transformative processes that form and transform urban areas through both formal top-down and informal bottom-up practices of individuals and communities.

The multiplicity of urban morphologies and social-political tensions that shape current urbanisation are reviewed through the analysis of a series of case studies, with a particular focus on projects from the Global South. It debates and analyses the political economy and power dynamics at play, through the multiple lenses of social, cultural, economic, environmental and political drivers. In so doing, it allows students to a gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which such acts reinforce or change engrained spatial issues.

In the second term, students put their learning into design action by tackling a live case study in London. Through the introduction of topical lenses of analysis and design research as an approach, students undertake field work and develop strategic design interventions in the production of a development brief, in partnership with local stakeholders. Recent student work can be found here.

Tutors: Dr Camillo Boano and Giorgio Talocci

BENVGBU2 Participatory Processes: Building for Development

As we continue to observe and experience how conventional delivery systems have failed to address urban challenges, new forms of agency and action are needed. This module is concerned with highlighting how the collective power of many small changes can be harnessed to effect realistic and creative urban transformations.

Through the analysis of theoretical readings, exercises and case studies, this module is designed to give students a structured understanding of participatory interventions in urban development planning. It sets out to present different participatory concepts and processes, and engage students in critically reflecting on the issues, limitations, but also innovative potential they present.

Students will learn about different participatory, tools and techniques and encouraged to think creatively about how public leadership and participation can be supported, mobilised and promoted to help improve democratic decision-making in the design of the built environment. Throughout the term, students will also be tackling key questions around the role of design, knowledge production and the role of the expert practitioner in delivering a collective urban future that is just and sustainable.

Tutors: Dr Catalina Ortiz and Camila Cociña

BENVGBU3 Building and Urban Design in Practice

This is a practice-based module delivered through studio teaching that involves collaborative and cooperative 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 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. Find out more about the Urban Intervention Studio.
  • A short three day BUDD camp 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. Find out more about BUDD camp.
  • 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. Find out more about our fieldwork. For more information see the fieldwork page.

Tutors: Dr Catalina Ortiz, Giorgio Talocci and Dr Camillo Boano

Optional modules offered by BUDD

The optional modules give students an opportunity to dive deeper into the topics closer to their interests. These can be taken from the wider range of 15-credit modules offered by the DPU or the Bartlett, as long as they do not clash with the core modules of the programme.

BENVGBU8 Critical Urbanism Studio I - Learning from Informality: Case Studies and Alternatives

Cities everywhere are being created without any architects or planners involved. An often quoted statistics is how almost 1 billion people live in informal settlements. Initiatives are trying to manage and control this informality in cities. With these unique challenges in mind, this module questions the definition of urbanism towards one that is social in nature and asks, what and for whom urbanism is for?

Through case study analysis this module presents how informal urban territories are imagined and constituted and serves as an opportunity to interrogate the role of design, architecture and urbanism in such contested urban settings. It encourages students to critically appraise this radical form of urban design and building of cities and seeks to underscore what could be learnt from such phenomena. The module is delivered in a studio based format, where students are tasks with delivering their own holistic and strategic urban design intervention to tackle a particular case study.

Tutor: Dr Giovanna Astolfo

BENVGBU9 Critical Urbanism Studio II - Investigative Design Strategies for Contested Spaces

This module builds on the Critical Urbanism Studio of BENVGBU8 approach for students who want to gain more experience in investigative urban analysis and development of design strategies. It focuses on phenomenological investigation as a different way of seeing people and place to engage with the multiplicity of contested developing arenas.

Learning evolves around a real-life contemporary urban case study developed in collaboration with a partner in the Global South but worked on remotely in the studio. As students work on the case study, they are encouraged to use this as a platform to reason with the aesthetics of informality and experiment with the design process as act of critique and resistance that puts the communities at the centre of the place.

Tutor: Giorgio Talocci

BENVGBUA Housing as urbanism: housing policy and the search for scale

This module reflects on the evolution of ideas and practices in the field of housing policies, in their direct connection with the wider context of development theories and strategies. It explores the changes in the role of different stakeholders, in the understanding of the multiple articulations of housing and urbanism and in the meaning and tools of scaling-up in housing provision. It pays particular attention to the convergence of debates on informality and housing as central to a major paradigmatic shift at conceptual and policy levels which will affect the direction of housing strategies far beyond just questions of informal housing.

Tutor: Jorge Fiori

BENVGBUB Housing policies: practical dimensions and alternative options

This module focuses on how interventions in housing can build on a complexity of sectoral inputs to produce multiple pro-poor development outcomes. Participants are exposed to a range of approaches to housing and settlement upgrading policy and practice. The roles of the state, market and civil society in housing and settlement upgrading are examined in different national contexts. The importance of land, finance, infrastructure, organisational capacity and governance are emphasised as well as the longer-term sustainability of different approaches.

Participants have an opportunity to work in small groups to track and analyse the historical development and implementation of housing policy within a specific country. They are also expected to develop a personal case study that demonstrates how the interaction between personal and political contexts results in differing housing outcomes. 2015-16 tutor: Ruth McLeod

BENVGBU6 Disaster Risk Reduction in Cities

This module provides a detailed examination and structured understanding of Disaster Studies and Disaster Risk Reduction, with specific reference to urban areas. It engages with extreme condition of disasters and their social, physical and political implications on urban areas, the built environment and planning disciplines. Drawing from current research on the urban turn in Disaster Studies and the entanglements between Disaster Risk Reduction, Development processes and Urban Poverty, the module offers an introduction to the debate on urban resilience and its policy implications. 2015-16 tutor: Dr Cassidy Johnson

BENVGBU7 Post Disaster Recovery: Policies, Practices and Alternatives

This Module provides a detailed and critical examination of post-disaster recovery practices and policies, with a particular focus on its institutional arrangements and socio-spatial implications. Drawing from transnational research experiences and connections with practitioners, humanitarian workers and development managers, the module reflects on the different challenges posed when working in a post disaster environment and implementing plans, projects and interventions. 2015-16 tutor:Dr Camillo Boano

Optional modules offered by other Masters in the DPU

(please note that enrolment onto each module is subject to places being available)

BENVGPU1 The City and Its Relations: Context, Institutions and Actors in Urban Development Planning explores the economic, social and physical change of cities in the wider context of development and globalisation.

BENVGPU2 Urban Development Policy, Planning and Management: Strategic Action in Theory and Practice explores strategic action in urban development policy, planning and management which recognises social justice in cities.

BENVGPU4 Gender in Policy and Planning is an 18-session module over two terms examining gender relations in the socio-economic, political and environmental processes in the development of human settlements. 

BENVGPU5 Transport Equity and Urban Mobility focuses on the relationships between social identity, transport and planning in the context of urban development in the Global South. It critiques and explores the implications for transport planning and its interaction with other kinds of planning, and the relationships between the state, civil society and private sector in the provision of transport for more socially just cities.

BENVGSD1 Social Policy and Citizenship looks at socially sensitive development, which has its roots in the social sector and social welfare models that were developed during the last century.

BENVGSD2 Social Diversity, Inequality and Poverty argues that social development is no longer confined to the 'social sector', but is increasingly defined more broadly as an approach that attempts to put 'people' and social equity at the centre of development initiatives across all sectors.

BENVGES2 Urban Environmental Planning and Management in Development surveys environmental problems in urban areas and their underlying causes and identifies who contributes most to such problems and who is most affected by them.

BENVGES5 Adapting Cities to Climate Change in the Global South aims to provide participants with an understanding of the ways in which climate change will affect urban areas in low- and middle-income countries.