Urban Design Specialization in MCRP


Urban design is a rapidly growing field as cities and regions around the world grapple with continued urbanization and growth in urban centres. Urban design plays a direct role in shaping the quality of life of urban dwellers. Contemporary urban designers are conscious of the holism necessary for integrating desirable outcomes such as:

  • Improving quality of life
  • Transportation options
  • Public health outcomes
  • Place-making
  • Ecological services
  • A lively public realm
  • Livable neighbourhoods. 

Specializing in Urban Design provides a set of fundamental theories, models, and planning tools that can help you understand and shape the built environment. Faculty in SCARP have considerable expertise in urban design as an integral part of larger city making processes. Urban Design as a topic at SCARP is particularly focused on the integration of social, ecological, hydrological, energy and transportation systems into urban-design thinking. Courses typically apply ongoing learning to real projects with real clients working in current problems in nearby communities.

Curricular Focus

SCARP's program allows students to tailor their curriculum to their individual career aspirations. Students wanting to develop design skills can take a sequence of courses that develop both direct and indirect design skills. In addition to all of the substantive knowledge areas, urban designers are increasingly interacting with the public and decision-makers through visual communication and oral presentation skills. The presentation skills that urban design students develop at SCARP are critical for developing capacity in communicating ideas and developing successful planning careers.

Integrating urban design and transportation requires wide-ranging familiarity with basic physical planning practice, including:

  • Land use
  • Site analysis
  • Regional data analysis
  • Infrastructure design
  • Social policy
  • Neighbourhood planning
  • Economic development. 

We are also focused in SCARP on how urban design and transportation planning interact with other sectors including the environment, energy, and public health. Contemporary practice requires practitioners who are committed to involving the public in design decisions, implementing a sustainability agenda, and working with a variety of stakeholders to ensure that urban design meets the needs of local communities and the wider public.

All Urban Design students are encouraged to seek a broad base of training across all areas at SCARP to help them become facilitators of interdisciplinary and multi-faceted discourse. In addition to physical planning knowledge, successful urban designers must also possess knowledge of land and housing market forces, project approval processes, financial analysis, real estate practice and the workings of the land development field. Knowing if projects are approvable, marketable, and buildable is the foundation of pragmatic physical planning practice.

Preparation for Professional Practice

Specializing in Urban Design prepares students for work in both direct urban design (in which they produce and develop designs) and indirect design. Indirect design involves the guidance and regulation of the design product of others, typically undertaken by municipal urban designers and planners, including:

  • Writing design guidelines
  • Reviewing design
  • Facilitating participatory design processes
  • Producing development standards
  • Making recommendations to policy makers and councils

Nowadays, our urban design graduates quickly find jobs in a variety of direct and indirect design positions working at a wide range of scales in both the public and private sectors such as:

  • Municipal planners
  • Designers
  • Transportation planners
  • Project managers
  • Project programmers
  • Strategic planners
  • Consultants
  • Public participation facilitators

Examples of Urban Design Students Work

SCARP Courses in Urban Design

 Distinguished urban designers are often invited to teach the Urban Design Studio PLAN 587D to provide students with varied studio projects, points of view and issues of currency. The intent of this studio is to provide diverse, practical, current and professional experience while engaging Vancouver’s vibrant and thriving design and development communities. Please note that successful completion of PLAN 517 is required before registering for PLAN 587A, which in turn is required for PLAN 587B.

We recommend that students choose their electives carefully to supplement their core courses and to tailor their program to their specific needs.  Each of your elective choices should be made in consultation with your primary advisor. 

Course No.Course TitleInstructor(s)Credits
CORE COURSES (Required for Urban Design Concentration)
PLAN 517Theory and methods of Urban DesignE. Villagomez 
PLAN 587AIntroduction to Physical & Land Use PlanningE. Villagomez3
PLAN 587BIntroductory Urban Design StudioTBD3
PLAN 526Planning StudioN/A 
PLAN 504The Ecological Context of Planning 3
PLAN 538Cross Cultural Planning  
PLAN 542Practical Practice: City Planning as a CraftL. Beasley 
PLAN 579Health and the Built Environment  
PLAN 561Urban Development Market & Financial AnalysisJ. Wollenberg 
PLAN 580Introduction to Transportation Planning  
PLAN 583Housing PolicyM. Gordon