Setting urban design as a specialised, evidence-led, coordinated education and profession

Ombretta Romice, David Rudlin, Husam AlWaer, Mark Greaves, Kevin Thwaites, Sergio Porta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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Urban environments are complex, impacting on climate change, social justice and health globally and locally. Their spatial, social, economic, environmental dimensions are interlinked and must be studied from a complexity viewpoint. Yet, whilst complexity has successfully entered urban scholarship and practice in many fields, urban form, a key component of urban environments, is not yet studied in these terms and consequently they are not yet designed as complex. We argue that the discipline of urban design should be (re)defined as the understanding and design of urban environments as places of organised complexity. It can become the discipline best placed to manage a useful global overview of sustainable placemaking. We do so by tracing urban design's historical relationships and attitudes towards the evolution of the city, contrasting definitions of complexity in science, with the deterministic way in which the early urban design practitioners viewed design. We then look at urban design's relationship with other design professions in the UK and suggest its lack of clarity and efficiency is an enduring consequence of this historic trajectory. Finally, we propose urban design as the discipline concerned with the understanding and design of complex-adaptive urban environments and advocate its establishment as an independent profession.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalProceedings of the ICE - Urban Design and Planning
Early online date15 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2022


  • urban environments
  • climate change
  • sustainable planning


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