The design component aims to prepare students to work with different urban situations and agendas.

In the beginning of each academic year, students engage in a five week induction project, to familiarise themselves with the teaching and learning environment of the course. During that time, we develop design tools and principles, by testing and refining them in various locations. For example, we experiment with drawings or models as a means to develop designs. It is an important foundation for further studies.

For the main design project, individual students focus on one site of their choice, for the rest of the academic year. This focus allows very deep explorations of a range of scales and involved urban design issues. Students formulate objectives, briefs, programmes and spatial aspirations of their design work.

Throughout the course, we engage in workshops, presentations, tutorials and discussions. In each academic year, the design component explores a specific urban agenda.

For completed student design projects, please visit the Thesis work

2014-15 MA UD Design

Open Studio

This academic year, students selected the location and topic of their design, theory and research project themselves.

In this Open Studio, students work on projects for example in Central and East London, the city of Pula in Croatia, Athens in Greece and with migrant villages in the Pearl River Delta in China. The course offers a rich platform for students’ visions for cities.

MA Urban Design students: Lucy Fineberg, Zuo Bin Go, Tom Green, Su Vin Lau, Matthew Rust, Liam Woods

2013-14 MA UD Design

This year, our design investigations and projects focused on deprived neighbourhoods around the City of London. We explored strategic and architectural potentials within an ongoing process of urban transformations.

The guiding theme of this year was Context City. This refers to both, the location next to the City of London and urban interventions that critically engage in social and spatial urban contexts. We explored ways in which sharing and living together can be part of a unique and synergetic urban life.

For further studies and inspirations, we visited the city of Berlin in Germany, in the beginning of November 2013.

MA Urban Design students: Emre Calis, Soma Kareem, Fatemeh Rostami, Tendeseco St.Francis, Nurnuha Zulfakar

With Thanks to: Camilo Amaral, David Buck, Roland Karthaus, Maria Segantini, Salahuddin Abdul Hakeem Bin Abbas, Maija Viksne, Elly Ward

2012-13 MA UD Design

This year’s main design project focused on the Post Olympic Fringe in the Lea Valley. The area is undergoing fundamental transformations and the event in 2012 was just one of the key moments of change.

Our design context, East London, is part of some of the largest urban restructuring processes in Europe. The area is subject to high levels of deprivation, industry, housing, dereliction, open spaces, speculation and investment. The ongoing designs for the Olympic event and legacy have set the tone for new urban developments within this diverse condition. Nevertheless, many parts around the former Olympic site are still undefined and questions of a long term urban future remain open.

This year’s student projects focused on this urban area of change. We formulated strategies that respond to global and site conditions, understanding of scales, architectural sensibilities and local communities, to create social, spatial and time-based habitats and environments.

MA Urban Design students: Kazahan Muharam and Salahuddin Abdul Hakeem Abbas

With Thanks to: Cathi du Toit, Lisa Fior, Ittai Frank, Jay Gort, Maria Segantini, Roland Karthaus, Renee Tobe, David Buck, Alan Chandler

Urban Phasing in Hackney Wick by Salahuddin Abdul Hakeem Abbas

2011-12 MA UD Design

This year, we focused on the theme of Open Land, exploring ways in which architectural interventions can mediate between urban contexts and diverse landscape conditions. The main sites of interest and student projects were located along Open Land in East London, stretching from the Lea Valley to Barking Creek.

To name just a few conditions, the area is subject to some of the most diverse inner urban wildlife, highly deprived neighbourhoods, but also some of the most intensive urban developments in Europe. East London‘s urban areas are changing and they transform adjacent landscapes in an ongoing process. In many cases, the interrelationship between build form and Open Land has yet to be defined. This poses interesting social, spatial and environmental questions. As an example within the area of interest, the 2012 Olympic designs address an interdependence of urban space and Open Land. Here, intensive urban developments embrace the Olympic Park. In our work, we asked questions beyond the Olympic event.

For the main urban design project, we investigated how proposals can be part of a synergetic urban life and relate to particularities of Open Land. This set the tone for interventions in a range of interrelated scales, from urban through to building scales.

MA Urban Design students: Panagiota Georgiou, Khulood Nasaif, Thanh Que Nguyen (Audi), Farhan Salat, Ana Denise Teixeira, Agne Liskauskaite

With Thanks to: Christopher Alexander (Architect, Urbanist and Mathematician), John Worthington (Architect and Urbanist), Tony Fretton (Architect), John Lock (UEL Olympics), Renee Tobe, David Buck and the MA Landscape Design students

For student's design projects, please visit

Sites in East London

2010-11 MA UD Design

During the academic year 2010/11, the MA Urban Design explored urban change along waterfronts in two different locations, North Woolwich in East London and the city of Bergen in Norway.

On the site in London, the students developed design and thinking tools, which responded to the particularities of family life in cities. They addressed spatial qualities, household sizes, adaptability, guiding frameworks and topography.

Bergen is located on the west coast of Norway, where archipelagos and Fjords form a unique landscape of islands and waterways. As a pre-condition, suburbanisation processes have led to extensive sprawl and road infrastructure around the inner city. In addition, containerisation and land expansions have opened sites along waterfronts, allowing new possibilities for the inner part of Bergen. The students tested initial design tools and developed diverse strategies for family life in cities, by challenging current suburban practices. The work addressed three important topographical scales. The unique setting of Bergen allowed a particular understanding of the city, as a collective and formal entity. Furthermore, communities, neighbourhoods and streetscapes demanded a careful exploration of their relationship to one another and to themselves. On the scale of immediate sites, the work addressed both the way buildings meet the ground and the potential to form their own topography.

MA Urban Design students: Daniela Ellis and Agnes Liskauskaite

With thanks to: David Buck (MA Landscape Architecture)

2009-10 MA UD Design

This academic year 2009/10, the MA Urban Design (formerly known as MA Alternative Urbanisms) continues to explore uncertain urban conditions with students working on different sites around the Medina of Marrakech in Morocco. The work focuses on the integration of informal communities and their city building practices. The situation is exemplary for a very large proportion of cities on this planet, where no architects or planners are involved. Inhabitants build the city themselves and we can study a variety of inherently urban processes directly.

In the course work, we explore general conditions, as well as specific social and topographical qualities, like the tannery community and a vast palm grove. Students can learn from this not only for working in such environments, but also for working with cities in general, where the recognition of finer urban dynamics could be an invigorating part of urban life.

MA Urban Design students: Konstantina Avgoustid Merianou, Bonny Cheta, Peter Croft, Brian Mallon, Richard Stevenson

With thanks to Zaher El Afiouni, Colin O'Sullivan, Eric Firley, Giles Omezi, Jane Clossick

MA UD students Peter Croft and Brian Mallon in Marrakech/Morocco, 2009

2008-09 MA AU Design

Located within East London’s Lea Valley, the particular site of interest 'Sugar House Lane' is an industrial island within a topographical and urban archipelago. Streams of water and transportation, as well as highly deprived communities form a demanding context. Subject to a particular grain of industrial buildings and intricate yards, the site is in parts a conservation area, an agglomeration of used and disused spaces. Tracing the site and acknowledging an ongoing re-industrialisation process opens the scope for diverse scenarios. To gain inspiration and a measure of urbanism, we researched particular conditions of cityness in Shoreditch/ London and visited Venice and the Netherlands. The site and its context, as well as guiding research set the tone for distinct strategic interventions in a range of scales, from urban through to architectural qualities. The projects aimed at invigorating existing and imagine new, to create schemes that are both, sustainable and enjoyable.

Furthermore, as part of the UrbanBuzz project CD-G Workshop, for building sustainable communities ( and the student Colin O'Sullivan continued his Diploma project, located in Beckton. The theme 'Room for Change' set the tone for a bottom-up approach, questioning current planning frameworks.

MA Alternative Urbanisms Students: Zaher El Afiouni, Sharmishta Ezhuthachan, Colin O’Sullivan, Ritu Rai, Yemin Yin

With thanks to: Visiting Professor Rodrigo Perez de Arce, Kathryn Firth and David Buck

Collaborative Design - Gateway Workshop

During the academic years 2007-08 and 2008-09, masters students took part in a Higher Education funded knowledge exchange, called UrbanBuzz. It was a University College London (UCL)-led programme whose prime partner was the University of East London. The programme was initiated for building sustainable communities and we focused on East London with our project CD-G Workshop. We tested a variety of student designs in community workshops. The experimental set-up involved invited experts Roger Zogolovich from AZ Urban Studio, Eike Sindlinger from Arup Urban Design, Dominic Church from CABE and Zahira Nazer from Newham Regeneration.

The student designs were based on a whole range of different objectives. For example, some of them identified local communities that are transient, because individual people have very little opportunity to change their living environment according to their needs. In these cases, local planning is too inflexible and most community workshops too passive. In order to have a better urban life, a lot of people just move on. As a consequence there is a higher chance that buildings remain without investment, neighbourhoods disintegrate and people develop an indifference towards public space. The student designs explored very diverse possibilities of spatial change, allowing people to participate in building architecture and shaping urban contexts. We used specific design methodologies for community workshops, like flexible timber models or cards to compose streetscapes, allowing diverse simulations and discussions. It was a mutual learning process and the resonance from community members and invited experts was highly invigorating. The experience allowed us to make crucial contacts and to develop our understanding of local communities and ways of working further.

For further information please visit and for a PDF download, please visit

2007-08 MA AU Works

In the academic year 2007/08, the MA Alternative Urbanisms has two fully integrated parts: The independent design intensive studio and the theory component comprising MA Alternative Urbanisms and Diploma students.

Following previous investigations in the future Olympic site in Stratford and the Lower Lea Valley with the "Events of Infrastructure", this year’s design work focuses on the entire area of the Lea Valley. The sites, embrace issues like boundary conditions and former social housing, as well as access, place making, living, working, manufacturing, recreation, flooding, inter-tidal habitats, ground - and other particular conditions. We work in close collaboration with the new MA Landscape Architecture, to enrich mutual understanding.

The theory component explores social and spatial developments of cities in the fields of urban history, theory, interpretation, practice and science. The lecture and seminar course aims to develop a local and global understanding, and helps to articulate a context and critical vision for students’ essay, design and thesis work.

Together with the Architecture + Urbanisms (A+U) Projects Office at the AVA, the MA Alternative Urbanisms will further expand and explore new educational and professional territories, in the future (see also Professional Doctorates in Architecture Furthermore, we have been short listed for substantial funding for the UrbanBuzz project CD-G Workshop, for building sustainable communities (

Thanks to everybody who contributed with their great support, enthusiasm and passion for this masters, dedicated to cities and other urban conditions.

MA Alternative Urbanisms tutors:Signy Svalastoga (Programme Leader) and Christoph Hadrys (Design and Theory)

With thanks to:Prof. Rodrigo Pérez de Arce, David Buck, Eric Firley, Susannah Hagan, Hossein Kachabi, Zahira Nazer

Students: Jane Clossick, Charlotte Harris, Koldobika Albistegui Sojo, Andrea Kadour, Chin Wai Lim, Marios Papaspyrou, Ashley Seaborne, Viral Seth, Ela Sidor, Richard Stevenson, Vicky Xanthopoulou, Marco Leal, Olalekan Ogundele, Colin O’Sullivan, Eleni Svirou Svyriadi and Kristina Tafa

Student visitors:Yee Seng Tan

2006-07 MA AU Works

The academic year 2006/07 was the first, where this new masters had two integrated components: The design intensive studio in collaboration with Diploma Unit 2 ( and the theory component comprising Diploma and MA Alternative Urbanisms students.

Following previous investigations in the future Olympic site in Stratford, this year’s design work focused on the Lower Lea Valley and the "Events of Infrastructure". The site, stretching from Bromley by Bow to Canning Town, embraces issues like access, place making, living, working, manufacturing, recreation, flooding and particular ground conditions. In relation to these issues, the students investigated in the dynamic of the arrival of mass movement infrastructure, and its possible consequences on the future imagination of the city.

The theory component explored social and spatial developments of cities in the fields of urban history, theory, interpretation, practice and science. The lecture and seminar course aimed to develop a local and global understanding, and helped to articulate a context and critical vision for students’ dissertation and design work. Following a range of scales, lectures explored the "Scope of Cities - from Urban Imagination to a Global Condition".

MA AU workshop on urban mapping, Maggie Wu waterscapes, 2006

Together with the Archtitecture + Urbanisms Projects Office at the AVA, the MA Alternative Urbanisms will further expand and explore new educational and professional territories, in the future.

Thanks to all participants and everybody who contributed for their great support, enthusiasm and passion for this fairly young masters, dedicated to cities and other urban conditions.

With thanks to: Sinisa Rodic, Prof. Rodrigo Pérez de Arce, Xochitl Benjamin, David Buck, Eric Firley, Zahira Nazer

Students: Zehra Abidi, Jane Clossick, Sharmishta Ezhuthachan, Tomotaka, Funahashi, Charlotte Harris, Kaanita Hassan, Caroline Hsiao, Andrea Kadour, Zoi Karagouni, Ariadni Karapidakis, Maria Lardis, Marco Leal, Olalekan Ogundele, Colin O’Sullivan, Eleni Svirou Svyriadi, Kristina Tafa, Yoko Takahashi, Tokushi Watanabe, Arnold Yussuff Obaro

Student Visitors: Irene Benjumea, Dave Edwards, Anibal Puron, Maggie Wu

No posts.
No posts.