Methodology for Urbanism (MSc)

Methodology for Urbanism (MSc)

The course Methodology for Urbanism runs parallel to the MSc Regional Design course. It prepares students to do academic research that will support and provide a solid foundation for their work in the research and design stu-dio. It teaches them how to organise and write an academic report. This is fundamental knowledge also for their graduation project. Moreover, the course introduces students to some of the key theoretical issues underpinning much of the current debates in urbanism, focusing on the integration of socio-spatial justice and sustainability. This course is different to the studio because students focus on traditional academic research, which complements less traditional and designerly forms of research, like “research by design”.

The connection between traditional and non-traditional (de-sign-based) forms of research is one of the characteristics of education and research in the Department of Urbanism of the TU Delft. The methodology course helps students:

1. EXPLAIN what a conceptual framework is.

2. BUILD a conceptual framework that will sustain research and de-sign in Q3.

3. IDENTIFY a community of authors and practitioners who write about the core ideas related to the research’s theoretical framework.

4. DESIGN, ORGANIZE, and WRITE an academic report, which describes the main questions to be answered in Q3, and the best methods for answering them.

5. EXPLAIN the values connected to, and the ethical issues involved in, the activity of planning and designing for people, and explain what PUBLIC GOODS are created by design and strategy.

Enabling students to formulate their own problem statement, research questions, and methodology is one of the goals of the Urbanism mas-ters’ course. Students should be able to design their research in a sound way. The conceptual frame-work is the foundation on which the whole research and design are based. Following Kurt Lewin’s maxim “There is nothing as practical as a good theory”, this course enables students to build up their concep-tual framework in order to prac-tice what we call “evidence-based urbanism”. This is because a theory is a “knowledge framework”, around which students can build their own ideas, be inventive and innovative, and add to existing knowledge (instead of reinventing the wheel). The guiding concepts underlying this course are:

1. Urbanism is a transdisciplinary field of study and practice, and there are different logics of enquiry involved, belonging to the human sciences, the physical sciences, and design. These logics of enquiry conceive questions and methods differently. It is necessary to clarify these different logics of enquiry, their different questions and methods, and how they can work together in order to be able to do research in Urbanism.

2. The model of knowledge-building used in this course is communicative/inter-subjective. We assume that all knowledge is constructed inter-subjectively. Knowledge needs to be communicated, discussed, and challenged in order to be validated, tested, and integrated into existing discourses. Hence the emphasis on communication. 3. There are different ways to achieve knowledge, and students and teachers need to discuss and clarify which ones are valid, rel-evant, ethical, and effective for Urbanism. For instance, there are different ways to do research in de-sign-based practice: how to connect design research with other (more academic) ways of doing research?

Text written by Roberto Rocco & Marcin Dabrowski


Students debating at the Methodology for Urbanism course. Photo by R. Rocco