Course Title: Spatial Thinking and Urban Design

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Spatial Thinking and Urban Design

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


365H Global, Urban and Social Studies

Face-to-Face or Internet

Sem 2 2007,
Sem 2 2008,
Sem 2 2010,
Sem 2 2011,
Sem 2 2012,
Sem 2 2013,
Sem 2 2014,
Sem 2 2015,
Sem 2 2016,
Sem 2 2017,
Sem 2 2018,
Sem 2 2019

Course Coordinator: Mittul Vahanvati

Course Coordinator Phone: 9925 9150

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 8.11

Course Coordinator Availability: By appointment

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

None required 

Course Description

The course emphasises the development of key urban design skills of value to urban planners, while critically reflecting on urban design as it is practised. A framework for understanding, critiquing and undertaking urban design is presented as a basis for the course. Within this framework, a range of urban design skills of significance to urban planners are developed. An integrated program of lectures, tutorial workshops, individual fieldwork, and some team work, provide the theoretical and practical basis for developing urban design skills and understandings. Students will be encouraged to reflect critically upon the skills they are developing and the manner in which planning interconnects with urban design, using theoretical and practical understandings.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

Objectives/learning outcomes

  • A range of key urban design skills including urban context and site analysis, development of urban design policy, preparation of plans and critical appraisal of development projects. 
  • An awareness of the policy and statutory framework in which contemporary urban design operates. 
  • An awareness of contemporary issues and challenges facing urban design. 
  • A basic knowledge of the history and philosophical foundation of urban design. 
  • An opportunity to apply knowledge in problem-based learning exercises. 
  • Critical analysis skills drawing together theoretical and practical understandings, including the critical reading of texts and plans, writing documents and the development of lines of argument supported by appropriate references. 
  • Skills in presenting to and facilitating discussion groups and communicating urban design ideas and proposals. 
  • Skills in presenting using drawings as a primary communication tool.

Overview of Learning Activities

Learning activities
Students will be provided with the opportunity to learn the following and expected to undertake (and where applicable complete):


  • Class involvement: Lectures and tutorials will introduce you to the concept and practice of urban design. This will be achieved by looking at urban design from a variety of professional and academic perspectives in which your participation (e.g. questions, description of personal experience) is essential. Students will attend two hours of classes a week which will generally be broken into a lecture and a  tutorial. The tutorials will contain a variety of learning approaches, focussing on critical reading and discussion of key urban design ideas and presentation and discussion of individual and group work. Note, that workshops, (in-class) studio sessions and presentations will also establish the structure of the class. The workshops and studio session develop core skills, in a supervised and shared learning environment. Tutorial, workshop and studio activities are conducted in both a large open group and smaller group format.


  • Reading: To supplement the lecture material, assigned journal articles and/or book chapters will provide the basis for weekly reading and tutorial discussions. The assignments and activities will be based on lecture material, tutorial discussions, tutorial activities, the material provided in the reading and any other readings as deemed appropriate by the course coordinator.


  • Assignments: The main assignment, the preparation of an Urban Design Project, will apply the concepts and skills presented in the lectures, readings and tutorials. This will focus on the preparation of an urban design plan for a specific location, showing the manner in which you have applied what you have learned in this course to arrive at specific outcomes. In instances where other assignments are due in a tutorial session (e.g. in-tutorial presentation) these will be assessed by course tutors.

Overview of Learning Resources

Please refer to relevant section in the Supplementary Course Guide (PDF).

Overview of Assessment

Assessment will involve:

  1. field visits and the production of field notes/journal based on key design concepts
  2. group or individual site investigation and analysis, including the presentation of concepts at key stages
  3. the preparation of a final design response to a nominated site