SO451      Half Unit
Cities by Design

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Richard Burdett TW2 8.01L


This course is compulsory on the MSc in City Design and Social Science. This course is available on the MSc in Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This is a capped course and we can only accept 32 students. If you are not registered on the MSc City Design and Social Design please submit an e-mail to Ricky Burdett motivating your inclusion on the course, ONCE you have attended the first introductory lecture where we will be available to respond to individual questions.

Course content

The course examines the relationship between built form and its social, political and cultural impacts in the contemporary, changing city. By introducing students to key concepts and methodologies in visual narratives and spatial analysis, the course investigates how the design of our complex urban environments affects the people who live in them. Using the city as a laboratory - through the analysis of case studies and discussion seminars - students are encouraged to evaluate how new policies and projects will impact on the macro and micro scales of city landscapes. While the course does not focus on urban policy, it provides students with the critical tools to understand the paradigms that underpin much of contemporary urban practice in cities of the global North and South, with a special focus on London's political and spatial context. Key issues include urban analysis and public space; densification and the compact city; gated communities and social exclusion; accommodating complexity and difference; boundaries and borders in contemporary city.


10 hours of lectures and 20 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.

Written feedback is given within two weeks of the essay submission, and in addition a writing seminar is incorporated in the course in preparation for the summative assessed essay.

Indicative reading

A detailed reading list will be distributed at the beginning of the course. Core background includes: Burdett,R and Sudjic, D (2008) The Endless City, London, Phaidon; Burdett, R and Sudjic, D (2011) Living in the Endless City; Larice, M. and Macdonald, E. (eds) (2007) The Urban Design Reader. London and New York: Routledge;. R. Sennett, (1991) The Conscience of the Eye: the design and social life of cities, London, Faber and Faber.


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the LT.

An illustrated course essay of not more than 5,000 words to be submitted by 4pm on the first Tuesday of LT, two hard copies to be handed in to the Cities Administration Office, a third copy to be posted to Moodle. 

Attendance at seminars and submission of all set coursework is required.

Student performance results

(2009/10 - 2011/12 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 22.7
Merit 55.7
Pass 18.2
Fail 3.4

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2012/13: 31

Average class size 2012/13: 31

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2010/11 - 2012/13 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 79%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)