PP4A2E      Half Unit
Cities and Society: Design and Social Cohesion

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Richard Burdett 8.01J


This course is compulsory on the Executive MSc in Cities. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

Cities and Society: Design and Social Cohesion looks at some of the major drivers of urban inequality and poverty and the key actions that cities are taking to reduce urban inequalities through urban design, infrastructure and policy. This is a heavily applied course providing students with tools to analyse the socio-demographic profile of households and neighbourhoods and their relation to spatial distribution and clustering in cities of the developing and developed world. Students are introduced to traditional measures of poverty and inequality such as income and wealth as well more recent multi-dimensional poverty measures such as health and education, and provided with analytical and mapping tools to identify areas of concentration of deprivation. A particular emphasis is placed on identifying spatial strategies that can alleviate the concentration of urban poverty and inequality by optimising access to jobs, housing, education, health, public space, transport and community infrastructure.

Cities and Society will also look at the macro-economic forces that are producing uneven regional and urban development and the key planning methods to reduce levels of inequality. These include spatially blind policies such as taxation and redistribution; spatially connective policies such as infrastructure links between high and low income neighbourhoods and finally spatially targeted policies where private and public investment is targeted at the most deprived urban areas.

Topics include: inequality and GINI coefficients; from income to multi-dimensional measures of poverty; the Human Development Index and its urban relevance; affordable housing, social infrastructure; equity planning (examples include London, Barcelona, Medellin and Bogota; the London model of urban regeneration; infrastructure and equity, health and well-being, migration.


The course will be taught via a combination of asynchronous sessions and live sessions, the latter of which can be attended in-person or remotely. A minimum of 10 hours of asynchronous learning materials sessions will be provided ahead of live teaching, which will consist of videos, readings and interactive activities. Approximately 10 hours of live teaching will be provided, consisting of lecture-based discussions, seminars and workshops. These live sessions will build upon the outcomes of the asynchronous sessions. Live teaching will take place over three one-week periods (Modules 2, 3 & 4) in parallel with SO4A3E and SO4A4E.

Formative coursework

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

500 word submission identifying the social research methods used in the assessment of a policy or project of your choice

Indicative reading

  • Burdett, Ricky, ‘Flexible Urbanisms’ in Burdett, Ricky and Rode, Philipp (2018): Shaping Cities in an Urban Age. Phaidon Press Ltd. London.
  • Mehrotra, Rahul and Vera, Felipe, ‘Ephemeral Urbanim, in Burdett, Ricky and Rode, Philipp (2018): Shaping Cities in an Urban Age. Phaidon Press Ltd. London.
  • Sennett, Richard, Rupture, Accretion and Repair’ in Burdett, Ricky and Rode, Philipp (eds) (2018): Shaping Cities in an Urban Age. Phaidon Press Ltd. London.
  • Roy, Ananya and Ong, Aihwa (eds) (2011) Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global. Wiley-Blackwell. New Jersey
  • Klaufus, Christien and Ouweneel, Arij (eds) (2015) Housing and Belonging in Latin America. Berghahn, New York and Oxford
  • Echeverri, Alejandro (2016) ‘Medellin redraws its neighbourhoods: Social Urbanism’  in Mohammad al-Asad, Rahul Mehrotra (eds), Shaping Cities: Emerging Models of Planning Practice. Hatje Cantz Verlag, Berlin.
  • Harvey, David (2012), Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, Verso. New York and London.
  • Graham, S. and Marvin, S. (2001) Splintering Urbanism: networked infrastructures, technological mobilities and the urban condition London: Routledge.

Additional readings:

  • Sennett, Richard, (2018): Building and Dwelling ethics for the city: Allen Lane. London
  • Burdett, R and Sudjic, D (2011) Living in the Endless City.
  • Burdett,R and Sudjic, D (2008) The Endless City, London, Phaidon.
  • Davis, Mike (2007): Planet of Slums. Verso.
  • Larice, M. and Macdonald, E. (eds) (2007) The Urban Design Reader. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Dávila, Julio (2012): Urban Mobility and Poverty: Lessons from Medellin and Soacha, Colombia. Development Planning Unit, UCL and Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
  • Mitlin, Diana and David Satterthwaite (2013): Urban Poverty in the Global South: Scale and Nature. Routledge.


Essay (70%, 2000 words) in the LT.
Presentation (30%) in the MT.

Design and present a research method to assess a project or policy of your choice (30%) and submission of an essay looking critically at the social research methods used in the assessment of an existing policy or project (70%).

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills