PP465      Half Unit
City-Making: the Politics of Urban Form

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Philipp Rode FAW.8.01i and Dr Savvas Verdis PEL.8.02B


This course is available on the MSc in City Design and Social Science, MSc in Regional And Urban Planning Studies and MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). Priority will be given to students on the MSc in City Design and Social Science for whom the course is an ‘optional core course’. Places will be allocated based on a written statement. This may mean that not all students who apply will be able to get a place on this course.

Course content

This case study-led course provides a critical understanding of major urban development initiatives and programmes in international city contexts. It is designed for students with a particular interest in urban development practices and how these connect with broader political debates. It will introduce students to the following knowledge and skills

  • general understanding of political theories underlying urban development models
  • ability to situate major urban development initiatives within different development cultures and socio-economic policy agendas
  • understanding the role of public, private and third party actors and formal and informal urban development processes
  • perspectives on decision making at the strategic, pre-design stage for urban development initiatives and ability to relate urban policy to spatial outcomes, operating at different scales
  • knowledge of key evaluation approaches and analytic frameworks used in the analysis of proposed and existing urban developments
  • understanding of how urban development objectives, phases and processes can be integrated and how policy making, economic development, urban planning, city design, architecture, and engineering are related.

The course content is based on contemporary projects and urban trends examined in the context of cities throughout the world. These range from policies such as congestion charging (London) and Progressive City Development (Medellin) to urban development trends such as extreme urbanism in Mumbai and privatist planning (Canary Wharf, London and Santa Fe, Mexico City). Such projects will be examined through critical frameworks that include utilitarianism, cost benefit analysis, social and environmental justice, citizenship theory and the capabilities approach. The course will focus on negotiation, politics, financing, appraisals and decision-making for cities. Seminars and assessed project work for the course will be based on the analysis of Development Strategies and City Design briefs.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures, online materials and seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours in WT.

Formative coursework

1 x contribution to student debate OR 1 x critical statement following a guest lecture AND submission of a 1,000 word position statement.

Indicative reading

  • Fainstein, Susan S. (1999). Can we make Cities we want? In The Urban Moment, ed. Sophie Body-Gendrot and Robert Beauregard. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  • Kymlicka, Will. (2002). Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction. 2nd ed. OUP Oxford. (Introduction).
  • Burdett, Ricky and Rode, Philipp (2011) Living in the Urban Age. in Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic (eds.). Living in the Endless City. The Urban Age Project by the London School of Economics and Deutsche Bank's Alfred Herrhausen Society. London. Phaidon Press.
  • Kelman, Steven (1981). Cost-Benefit Analysis: An Ethical Critique. AEI Journal on Government and Society Regulation (January/February 1981). Reprinted with permission of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C. (33—40).
  • Sen, Amartya (1979). Equality of What? The Tanner Lecture on Human Values. Stanford University. 22 May 1979. Lecture.
  • M. Watts (2009). Developmentalism, In: Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift, Editor(s)-in-Chief, International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Elsevier, Oxford. (123-130).
  • Porter M.E. (1995). The Competitive Advantage of the Inner City. Long Range Planning 28 (August): 132. 
  • Gwyther, G (2000) Social Capital and Communitarianism. Sociological Sites/Sights, TASA Lecture 2000, Adelaide: Flinders University, December 6-8.
  • Mouffe, C (2000). Deliberative Democracy or Agonistic Pluralism. Political Science Series. Institute for Advance Studies, Vienna.
  • Robeyns, Ingrid. (2005). The Capability Approach: a theoretical survey. Journal of Human Development 6 (1).
  • Giddens, Anthony (2009) The politics of climate change. Cambridge; Malden, MA. Polity. (Chapter 6: A return to planning?)
  • Whitehead, Mark. Neoliberal Urban Environmentalism and the Adaptive City: Towards a Critical Urban Theory and Climate Change. Urban Studies 50, no. 7 (2013): 1348-67.
  • Harvey, D. (1992). Social Justice, Postmodernism and the City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 16: 588–601.


Project (100%, 5000 words) in the ST.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the first Wednesday of Spring Term.

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

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2022/23: 41

Average class size 2022/23: 41

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

  • Leadership
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness