The master of urban design (MUD) is an intensive, calendar year, post-professional degree program for students already holding a first professional degree in architecture, landscape architecture or urban and regional planning (e.g., BArch, BLA, MArch, MLA, MCRP/MURP or equivalents). The interdisciplinary program uses Denver as an urban laboratory but the globe as a reference, educating future designers about the unique place the city holds in addressing the critical problems of our time.
The program began in 1969 and counts several hundred alumni practicing around the world, including renowned designers like Jun Xia (’89), Principal of Gensler Shanghai and designer of the new Shanghai Tower.
Our student body is extremely diverse, with recent students from Bangladesh, China, Colombia, India, Iran, Japan, Libya, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. These students join our domestic students (many of whom receive significantly reduced tuition through our WICHE-WRGP status) to examine contemporary urbanism and design practice through an interdisciplinary, studio-based curriculum taught by a multi-disciplinary faculty. Coursework is capped off by the International Studio held each summer when students travel to study urban issues in dynamic, context-based locations.
The Urban Design program is organized around three central themes reinforced by core studios and seminars:
We take a holistic approach to designing the livable city. Since more than half the world’s population lives in cities, with that number set to increase to two-thirds by 2030, we must anticipate the ecological impacts of our design decisions. In preparation for a post-carbon era, we address concerns related to climate change, energy usage, public health, food production and resource availability through an integrated approach to the design of urban settlements.
Our students re-imagine and re-interpret urban systems – from transportation networks to hydrological systems to zoning codes to social movements – with the goal of creating cities that are at once socially just, economically diverse and ecologically resilient. These challenges must be urgently addressed: we believe that urban designers are best positioned to meet them head on.
LOCAL TO GLOBAL
We believe urban designers must recognize the interrelated local and global impacts of their actions and understand the interdisciplinary nature of urban problems. We address design issues at all scales, from the individual public space to the neighborhood, city, region, nation and world. This approach acknowledges that all sites are embedded within larger systems, a concept we engage in all our studios.
In the Fall and Spring, students examine the Denver metropolitan area, a progressive, yet prototypical, urban laboratory experiencing significant growth and development and home to every urban condition imaginable, from dense downtown infill to sprawling edge cities to the New Urbanism-inspired Stapleton airport brownfield redevelopment. The Front Range is a national leader in design and planning innovation, as represented by the multi-billion dollar Fastracks transit project, Denver’s groundbreaking new citywide form-based code, Boulder’s open space acquisition policies and energy municipalization effort, Arvada’s GEOS net-zero energy neighborhood, and Fort Collins’s closed-loop brewery-oriented development. Students apply the skills and knowledge gained in their local study in the summer term in a studio abroad. Recent studios have taken place in the Shanghai-Nanjing corridor with faculty and students from the nation’s top schools of architecture and design at Tongji and Southeast University, and in the dense urban core of Copenhagen, Denmark with faculty and students at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS).
INNOVATIONS IN PRACTICE
We train our students to become critical, reflective professionals with a deep understanding of urban design theory and practice. All our graduates possess knowledge of contemporary urban thinking as well as exceptional technical, verbal and graphic communication skills. Our curriculum is informed by innovations in current practice: we undertake real projects with real clients, and some classes are taught by leading practitioners from the top design firms in the region. Each year, renowned practitioners give lectures and serve as jurors in the MUD program. To address the most complex social-ecological problems of our time, we see high demand for graduates who possess multiple talents, a broad understanding of urban planning, architecture, landscape, real estate development, and urban politics and economics, and the ability to work not only with design professionals but also engineers, policy makers, environmental scientists and the public.
The college's Internship Program aims to place students into internships with the region’s top design firms. Urban Design students are encouraged to apply to participate in this selective process. Participating firms have included: AECOM, Civitas, Design Workshop, Norris Design, RNL Design, OZ Architecture, studioINSITE, and Tryba Architects. College units including the Colorado Center for Community Development (CCCD) frequently hire MUD students as research assistants (RAs) and the Departments of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Planning and Design often hire teaching assistants (TAs) from our incoming MUD students.