Enjoy learning about urban design


The urban design learning space will help you understand what good urban design is all about.

Whether you’re a planner looking to write new local development plan policies, a highway engineer considering street improvement projects or a councillor looking at how to help improve constituents’ neighbourhoods, our free online courses can help.

We’ll explain what urban design is all about, and why it’s important – and help you understand some of the commonly used phrases, and illustrate important design solutions. You can also find out about the theories, policies and tools that relate to the current thinking, funding and management of urban design. We’ll also explain the processes and practical tools you can use to ensure that design is good.

The learning space covers many aspects of urban design, but it’s up to you whether you dip into an activity, follow a structured introductory course or browse around for a particular area that’s relevant to you. Each topic contains lots of explanations, examples, fun activities, slideshows and quizzes to help you learn, and there’s a discussion forum where you can share your experiences. You can work through everything at your own pace, and return to it at any time.

Urban design is about how buildings and the spaces between and around them fit together and work together. So the learning space covers everything from understanding urban structure and why design matters, to trickier concepts like how to assess the quality of a design.

Urban design is:
  • 'smart architecture' because it thinks about a whole place.
  • ''smart highway design' because it thinks about why people need to move around, and where they need to get to, not just about how the street works.
  • 'smart planning', because it is about understanding how places should change for the public good.
So to learn more about urban design, dive in and have a look at our courses:
  • Structure of places: looks at the anatomy of urban areas, what they are made of and how all their elements fit and work together.
  • Places that work: discusses why some places are more successful than others, and what their characteristics are.
  • Streets: covers the concept of streets as places and how this influences the way streets are designed and managed.
  • Policy and law: considers some of the key policies, guidance and legal documents that influence how we manage and design places.
  • Planning: describes how planning and design can work together to create places that work and are valued, by looking at planning policies, tools and the planning process.
  • Plans, drawings and images: looks at some of the most common types of plans, drawings and images, and suggests how best to use them.
  • Shaping places: examines the main stages of developing a design, and how we can achieve well designed outcomes by getting people to work together constructively.
  • Assessing design quality: covers the different tools that help people assess the quality of proposals, either during development, or to help make decisions about whether schemes should be given permission or funding.

We're adding new content all the time and we're always interested in hearing from you, so please join in, explore and enjoy learning about urban design.
Last modified: Wednesday, 15 April 2015, 11:20 AM