10 of the Best Urban Design Degree Programs from Around the World

10 of the Best Urban Design Degree Programs from Around the World

Article by Maria Giovanna Drago We search and explore the best Urban Design degree programs from around the world. Urban design is always a hot-button topic. We often hear discussions about overpopulation, sustainability, urban connection, and social spaces. People want to know more about cities and designed urban spaces, and the number of students who aim to become urban designers continues to increase. To make it easier for young people embarking on their careers, we have looked into 10 of the most prestigious universities in the world to see what they have to offer in Urban Design Degree Programs. (A selection of pictures were chosen to highlight projects in the countries represented by these degree programs. For further information on any of them, just click the image).

The Best Urban Design Degree Programs

1. Tsinghua University, Beijing, China Are you interested in global development and computer technologies matched with Oriental design? THU’s two-year master’s degree program in urban and rural planning provides deep, practical experience in computer technologies, GIS, and other innovative systems. The THU campus is one of the most beautiful in the world, according to a 2010 Forbes interview of architects and designers. The area is the former site of the Qing Dynasty Royal Gardens, so it is characterized by a Chinese style of landscaping, with brooklets and traditional buildings, together with more modern, Western-American style elements.

Urban design degree programs

Photo Credit: Vanke Daxing Retail and Leisure Centre, by SPARK and BAN Landscape, Beijing, China

2. University of Hong Kong Are you ready to explore and challenge the growing Asian community while still feeling somewhat “at home”? Quality of life due to overpopulation is a serious problem, so the one-year master’s degree program in urban design must take into account the rapid evolution of Asian cities and oppose the development of cell buildings. Luckily, English is the main language at the university. The master’s degree program is accredited by the United Kingdom’s Royal Town Planning Institute, with about 6,000 foreign pupils currently enrolled. Moreover, the campus is located in old British colonial buildings, which feel familiar to many of us.
Urban design degree programs

One Island East. Image courtesy of Hargreaves Associates

3. Milan Polytechnic, Italy Hands up — who is fascinated by Italy? You can attend the master’s degree program in urban planning and policy design at PoliMi. Italy is home to creativity and art, and one of its main challenges is the modernization of historical cities and the relationship between old architectural codes and new. The university counts distinguished architects among its teaching staff, including Jacopo Gardella, Gio Ponti, Camillo Boito, Ernesto Nathan Rogers, and Aldo Rossi.
Urban design degree programs

The development of the village centre in Innichen, Italy. Photo courtesy of Alles Wird Gut

4. Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands Once known as the Royal Academy, Delft University was founded by King William II to educate public officials. Here, you can find historic design masterpieces such as Rietveld’s and Le Corbusier’s chairs and experience some really well done buildings, such as the library designed by Mecanoo, whose green turf roof gives excellent energy performances. If you aim to enjoy multicultural studies, you will be happy to know that the flagship of TU Delft is The European Postgraduate Master in Urbanism (EMU), which operates in conjunction with three additional universities: KU Leuven, IUAV Venezia, and UPC Barcelona.
Urban design degree programs

Waterplein Benthemplein. Photo courtesy of De Urbanisten

5. National University of Singapore If you are interested in the challenge of facing the urgent needs of rapid urban transformation, you could attend the master of architecture program with a specialization in urban design at NUS. Its own campus fully reflects urban growth — it was renovated in 2011 due to tripled enrollments — and it enhances the community sense as a solution to social alienation. It features a central green space where satellite hubs converge. The master’s program has an added value, since it is accredited by The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
Urban design degree programs

Gardens by the Bay by Grant Associates

6. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland Berlage, Calatrava, Le Corbusier, Herzog and De Meuron, Aldo Rossi, Tschumi and many others graduated from this institution. And if their example isn’t enough? So did Albert Einstein! The institute is in the top five of the best European universities, according to the Times 2015 ranking. It promotes research and new technologies, and its campus is nicknamed “Science City” for good reason. Its students are exposed to international culture and points of view, since half of the professors are from abroad. The university offers a master’s of advanced studies degree in urban design, with the aim of developing new city models.
Urban design degree programs

Photo Credit: Stadtlounge, St Gallen, Switzerland, by Carlos Martinez Architekten and Pipilotti Rist

7. London’s Global University The New York Times has set it among the 10 best universities on the whole planet. It is home to the United Kingdom’s first master’s degree in architecture history. Who wouldn’t like to live in one of the most attractive cities in the world while learning about environmental issues and ecological history? The university’s master’s degree in architectural urban design is a one-year program focusing on ecological aspects. Other interesting subjects are included: archaeology, anthropology, design theory, land use, and so on. The university is located in central London, and is easily accessible and connected to the whole city. It hosts 50 sport clubs, and its team rivalry with King’s College London is legendary.
Urban design degree programs

Finsbury Avenue Square. Photo by Lewis Foti

8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachussetts, United States Are you creative and do you like to experiment? MIT encourage its students to dare, and this has led to successful outcomes (including 78 Nobel Prizes), earning it a spot at the top of all schools on the planet, according to the 2015/2016 QS World University Rankings. Its name is synonymous with excellence, and the secret of its success lies in combining laboratories and teaching (one of the first in the world to do so). Indeed, admission is really competitive: Only about 60 lucky students enroll each fall. MIT offers a two-year master’s degree in city planning. For those who like trends and magazines, MIT Press is the only academic publisher in the United States to host a dedicated section to architecture and design.
Urban design degree programs

Philadelphia Navy Yards – Central Green. Credit: © James Corner Field Operations

9. University of California, Berkeley, California, United States UC Berkeley might suit those who believe in a fair future, because it deals with social responsibility and community participation issues in a “design world” sometimes more artistic than practical. It is the oldest school in California. Many of the campus buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Department of City and Regional Planning hosts a two-year master’s degree in city planning, with specializations in four areas: environmental planning and healthy cities; housing, community and economic development; transportation policy and planning; and urban design.
urban design degree programs

University of California San Francisco Regional Medical Center. Photo Credit: Tom Fox

10. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States If you’re a fan of architect Louis Kahn, this is the right place for you, since he graduated for here and lately also taught his love for mass and pure forms. UPenn reveals an important background, since it was founded by Benjamin Franklin and is one of the original colonial colleges. Also for this reason, it is oriented to plan according to the development of territory focusing on past, present, and future. It hosts two courses: city and regional planning and a special urban design certificate.
Urban design degree programs

Aerial view of Shoemaker Green. Photo credit B. Doherty Photography

Urban Design Degree Programs

This list is just a brief introduction to the world of planning and design on the urban and territorial scale. Could you ever imagine all the factors an urban designer might have to deal with? Fast-growing cities, new technologies, periphery challenges — these are all points of view and aspects that every university will guide you to discover. Dare to face those challenges with intellect and creativity. Which Urban Design degree programs would you recommend ? 


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Article by Maria Giovanna Drago

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