Global Urbanism Studio

MUD students at the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall in Shanghai. Photo by Matt Kleinmann.

The 21st century is an urban century, one in which the human condition has become an urban condition. This ten-week summer program responds to this challenge and provides the students the opportunity to study and experience a series of significant global cities in comparative perspective. These cities are imbued with the complexity of urban life and have an active and lively culture, art, and design scene in which the making of the urban fabric is challenged by rapid growth, environmental stress, and the need for a new approach to informal and formal urbanism.

Each year the studio selects a fast-growing city in Asia to compare and contrast with an American or European city, and utilizes a similar urban design project to develop a detailed design project that offers a distinctive, place-specific urban response. Over the past five years various themes of urban intensification have been explored, with particular focus on sustainability, vertical urbanism, hydo-urbanism, emergent urbanism, and the creation of everyday lively, livable, and socially transformational urban interventions. Sites have included Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mexico City, San Francisco, and Chicago.

The studio begins with research and study in St. Louis, followed by immersion in the selected cities, where students live, research, observe, and work on the design project. Field trips to other significant Asian cities and contemporary icons of architecture, landscapes, and urbanism occur throughout the duration of the studio. The studio is supported by a seminar on the history, theory, and methods of global urbanism, and a robust visiting international guest lecturer program that provides valuable local insight into the cultural, artistic, and social conditions of the city. The studio is open to all architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design students.

Summer 2015: Johannesberg+Dubai

The Global Urbanism Studio for summer 2015 will begin in St. Louis with a three-week research and visioning process, followed by a four-week study abroad portion through Johannesberg and Dubai, ending in St. Louis for the final four weeks. The studio will investigate the multiplicity of urban forms, social juxtapositions, and spatial apartheid that exist within Johannesberg through the examination of Corridors of Freedom, a government-sponsored proposal.


In summer 2011, the Master of Urban Design program offered its first international semester in Shanghai, China. The studio was led by John Hoal, associate professor and chair of the program, along with lecturers abroad Bing Bu, Erik G. L'Heureux, and Chunxia Yang.

For this studio, students chose between one of two primary projects: the development of a master plan for the Suzhou Creek and ZhaPu Neighborhood in Shanghai, or the creation of a master plan for the redevelopment of the Port at Tajong Pagar, adjacent to the Central Business District in Singapore.

Organized into two groups, students began with a two-week comparative research project on the urban form (morphology) and urban systems (metabolism) of either Shanghai or Singapore, covering three scales of site analysis: metropolitan, downtown district, and river corridor/waterfront. They then traveled to Singapore, where they further developed this collaborative study while working in design studios with students from the National University of Singapore, who served as "urban researchers."

For each city, the project research and site analysis teams were subdivided into four charrette teams, each of which developed a master plan for the site that included a clearly stated vision; set of urban design principles; framework plan; 3-D urban morphology model; the urban systems and performance, urban design code that described spatial/building /landscape and infrastructural typologies and character; and public realm plan. Students from Tongji University also participated in this four-week charrette. Each team member individually completed the design of a detailed component of the group's master plan, resulting in three detailed companion studies that tested each master plan and demonstrated the functionality, character, and use of the proposition.