Urban Design Concentration

Permanent Faculty: Maged Senbel, Penny Gurstein


The study of urban design is one of the fastest growing fields in North American planning schools. New urban design concentrations and degree programs are appearing in many schools, to help create urban communities in which people can live, work, learn, play and recreate. This is an antidote to the large lots of single-family homes that are a car trip away from everything and that have come to characterize urban sprawl. Contemporary urban designers are conscious of the holism necessary for improving transit functions, public health, place-making, providing ecological services, and creating a lively public realm and livable neighbourhoods. Urban design, together with transportation planning, play a direct role in shaping the quality of life or urban dwellers.

The main objective of the Urban Design concentration is to give SCARP students interested in urban design a set of fundamental theories, models and planning tools that can help them understand and shape the built environment.  Faculty in SCARP have considerable expertise in urban design both as a stand-alone discipline and as an integral part of larger city making processes. The concentration at SCARP is particularly focused on the integration of social, ecological, hydrological, energy and transportation systems into urban design thinking. Courses are applied and typically include real projects with real clients working in current problems in nearby communities.



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 cannot be underestimated in terms of their value 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, and 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

SCARP's Urban Design prepares students for work in both direct urban design, in which they produce and develop designs, and indirect design, which deals with the guidance and regulation of the design product of others, which is typically undertaken by municipal urban designers and planners (e.g., writing design guidelines, reviewing design, facilitating participatory design processes, producing development standards, making recommendations to policy makers and councils).  Our recent urban design graduates have quickly found jobs in a variety of direct and indirect design positions working at a wide range of scales in both the public and private sectors as municipal planners, designers, transportation planners, project managers, project programmers, strategic planners, consultants and public participation facilitators.



Core Courses - These courses constitute the core of urban design and are required.

PLAN 517

Theory and methods of Urban Design


Introduction to Physical & Land Use Planning


Introductory Urban Design Studio

PlAN 587E

Intermediate Urban Design Studio

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.


Other SCARP Courses - We recommend that students choose their electives carefully to supplement their core courses and to tailor their program to their specific needs.  Each student’s elective choices should be made in consultation with his/her primary advisor.  Below is a list of recommended electives.

PLAN 504

The Ecological Context of Planning

PLAN 538 Cross Cultural Planning

PLAN 542

Practical Practice: City Planning as a Craft

PLAN 579

Health and the Built Environment

PLAN 561

Urban Development Market & Financial Analysis

PLAN 580

Introduction to Transportation Planning

PLAN 583

Housing Policy



The following courses are suggestions and do not represent the exact current offerings. Departments frequently alter their offerings and we encourage students to independently check course availability. Advisors would also be happy to consider other courses that students bring to their attention.

Landscape Architecture

LARC 316

Trees and Shrubs in the Landscape

LARC 510 A

Adv. Studies in L. Arch

LARC 520

Theories in Experience and Place

LARC 551

Professional Practice in Landscape Architecture


Research Methods in Landscape Architecture



ARCH 503

Themes in Architecture and Design

ARCH 504

Architectural History:  Renaissance – 19th C.

ARCH 505

Architectural History:  20th C.

ARCH 523

Contemporary Theories in Architecture



GEOG 350

Introduction to Urban Geography

GEOG 362

Geography of Economic Development



COMM 306

Urban Land Economics

COMM 307

Real Estate Investment

COMM 405

Real Estate Finance

COMM 408

Real Estate Development

COMM 445

Shipping & International Logistics


Civil Engineering

CIVL 340

Transportation Engineering I

CIVL 440

Transportation Engineering II