GY449      Half Unit
Urban Futures

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Austin Zeiderman


This course is available on the MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), MSc in Regional And Urban Planning Studies, MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Urbanisation and Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is strictly capped at 30. Students are required to apply through Graduate Course Choice on LSE for You by providing a short written statement of why they are interested in taking the course (this includes students on Geography and Environment MSc programmes). If the course is over-subscribed, places will be allocated at the Department’s discretion and a waiting list may be created. Priority will be given to students on the MSc programmes listed above. For further details, please contact your relevant Programme Coordinator.


This course assumes that students already have a background in the social sciences and/or humanities as well as in urban studies. Exceptions will be made for students who can show that they are suitably qualified.

Course content

By now we are accustomed to hearing that, for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lives in cities. We may also be aware that more than one billion people now live in the urban slums and shantytowns of the global South, and that this is where the majority of world population growth will take place. But what sort of futures are being imagined for the cities of the twenty-first century? In response to this question, GY449 Urban Futures will critically analyze how the future of cities, and the cities of the future, have been thought about and acted upon in different times and places. Students will learn to adopt a geographical and historical approach to urban futures by exploring how ways of envisioning the future of cities differ across time and space. Treating the future as a social, cultural, and political reality with a profound influence on the present, the course will examine how urban areas are planned, built, governed, and inhabited in anticipation of the city yet to come. Each week will be organised around a particular model for the future of the city: the ideal city, the dystopian city, the modernist city, the colonial city, the capitalist city, the socialist city, the organic city, the global city, and the secure city. These models will be examined through concrete examples and will enable the discussion of broader theoretical perspectives in urban studies, with a specific focus on the critical analysis of urban futures. Though grounded in urban geography, this course will draw upon texts and other materials from anthropology, sociology, history, cultural studies, literature, film, philosophy, social theory, architecture, art, and city planning. Its primary objective is to equip students with sophisticated, critical ways of thinking about the future of cities, since doing so has real significance for the kind of city we want to, and eventually will, ourselves inhabit.


In the Department of Geography and Environment, teaching will be delivered through a combination of classes/seminars, pre-recorded lectures, live online lectures and other supplementary interactive live activities.

This course is delivered through weekly interactive seminars across Autumn Term.

This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Autumn Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to participate actively in seminar discussions throughout the course, with occasional presentations and discussion leadership roles required. Feedback will be provided in the sessions.

Indicative reading

This is a reading-intensive course and each session will be dedicated to in-depth discussions of book-length studies. A detailed reading list will be provided at the beginning of the course, but will include works such as: Jaime Amparo Alves, The Anti-Black City: Police Terror and Black Urban Life in Brazil (2018); Filip De Boeck and Sammy Baloji, Suturing the City: Living Together in Congo’s Urban Worlds (2016); Hiba Bou Akar, For the War Yet to Come: Planning Beirut’s Frontiers (2018); Gökçe Günel, Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi (2019); Erik Harms, Luxury and Rubble: Civility and Dispossession in the New Saigon (2016); Danny Hoffman, Monrovia Modern: Urban Form and Political Imagination in Liberia (2017); Natalie Oswin, Global City Futures: Desire and Development in Singapore (2019); Christina Schwenkel, Building Socialism: The Afterlife of East German Architecture in Urban Vietnam (2020); Keeanga-Yamattha Taylor, Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership (2019).


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

The assessed essay will be a critical and creative exercise in the analysis of urban futures. Students will be given a choice: 1) Identify and research one vision of the urban future that exists in the present; or 2) Take a particular city and research the ways its future has been envisioned in the past, and how it is currently being envisioned in the present. Essays must contain no more than 5,000 words of text although they may also include images, as well as any other media that pertains to the argument.

Key facts

Department: Geography and Environment

Total students 2022/23: 28

Average class size 2022/23: 28

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication