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The Urban Design Certificate Program is open to students in the MArch, BLA, MLA, MUP, and both PhD programs in the College of Built Environments, who show promise of achievement in urban design.

The program also welcomes and supports students who want to take courses in urban design, but who are not in participating programs or who do not wish to complete the full certificate requirements, and supports the internal urban design specialization within the MUP degree program.

Candidates for the Certificate in Urban Design typically have a physical design background, and hold an undergraduate degree in architecture, landscape architecture, environmental design, or urban planning with a design emphasis. Alternatively, an equivalent background may be obtained during residency in the College. Courses are available to help students develop design awareness and basic skills in conceptualization and integration skills, including graphics and communication techniques and introductory studios.

Students must possess or gain the necessary physical design abilities prior to participation in advanced urban design studios and to receive the certificate. Students without sufficient design background should anticipate the possibility of spending additional time at the University of Washington to develop these skills.

Candidates without a physical design background may, in unusual circumstances, be awarded the Certificate of Achievement in Urban Design where a specialized program of advanced study in urban design (research, history, law and implementation, urban development) has been approved by the urban design faculty.

Students interested in obtaining a Certificate in Urban Design should complete a Statement of Interest as early as possible in their degree program.

The Urban Design Certificate curriculum allows students to concentrate their study and research in urban design while they fulfill their degree requirements. There is a required set of core courses complemented by recommended courses in four areas to provide students with a firm grounding in theory, methods, and practical skills. Special emphasis is placed on studios where a variety of topics and approaches to urban design are offered as opportunities for the student to synthesize and apply knowledge obtained in other program courses (see detail below).

To receive the certificate, students must complete 12–15 credits of courses from the urban design curriculum which are not required by their degree program or count as "selectives"/selected electives for them, though we do ask students to choose an urban design selective where they have such an option. Certificate credits are generally open elective credits and part of the total number of credits required for the degree. These 12–15 credits differ depending on the requirements of the student's degree. Thus students need to carefully choose courses both in the certificate program and in their home degree program to complete their study. Preparatory graphic work does not count toward the required credits.

Students must have a 3.0 cumulative grade point average for all urban design courses in order to obtain the certificate.

Prior to completing certificate requirements, students' work and objectives are reviewed in a meeting with the faculty. This meeting's purpose is to give the students an opportunity to assess their urban design work and to help them to chart their remaining course of study in the program.

Students must complete a thesis, capstone project, professional project, or dissertation with an urban design component. If the structure of their degree program allows, the chair must be from the program faculty; if the program has a prescribed chair, students must select a thesis/project advisor from the program faculty.

So, the overall process is:

  • Application
  • Coursework
  • Program Review
  • Thesis / Capstone / Professional Project / Dissertation

The lists below include a mix of courses required for the degree and supplementary urban design courses to include:

  • Four urban design core courses (all are required, though for most students at least two will overlap with degree requirements)
  • Three urban design studios (one beginning studio from the student’s degree requirements, plus two additional upper-level studios as identified by the program each quarter, at least one of which should be from outside the student's home department or otherwise clearly be interdisciplinary.)
  • Supplementary courses from the recommended course areas to complete the required 12–15 credits (chosen to complement students’ other coursework and enhance their knowledge of urban design)
  • Thesis/capstone/professional project with an urban design component and a chair or advisor from the program faculty

Note also the required informal review meeting.

A reminder that the certificate requires 12–15 credits of work—course recommendations vary according to students’ degree program. Please check with the advising office for assistance in determining which courses are the best options for you. A list of applicable courses is available before each quarter through our mailing list and on the Student Info page.

Urban Design Core (four required courses)

  • Introductory Course (usually part of the degree program):

    • ARCH 590 Urban and Preservation Issues in Design (MArch students) or
    • L ARCH 361 (BLA students) / L ARCH 561 (MLA students) The Human Experience of Place or
    • URBDP 423 / URBDP 523 Introduction to Urban Design (any student) or
    • URBDP 500 Survey of Urban Planning (MUP students)
  • URBDP 498 / URBDP 527 Urban History, Ethics, Form, and Theory I
  • ARCH 561 Urban Design Theory
  • URBDP 580 Legal & Administrative Framework for Planning

Urban Design Studios

Three studio courses, numbers assigned to these studios vary. In general, the first of these studios is a core requirement of the students’ degree program and may have only a small urban design component (for example ARCH 503 for MArch students and URBDP 507 for MUP students). The following two studios should have urban design as a core part of the studio. These upper-level studios are designated by the program each quarter

Recommended Course Areas

Students should take courses in these areas to complete the required 12-15 credits unique to the certificate

  • Urban Form and History (1 course suggested)

    • L ARCH 454 History of Urban Landscapes and Environments
    • URBDP 564 Planning history, Theory and Ethics
    • URBDP 565 American Urban History
    • or approved equivalent
  • Urban Design Methods (2 courses suggested)

  • Urban Studies (1 course suggested)

    • L Arch 561 The Human Experience of Place
    • UrbDP 422 / UrbDP 522 Urban and Regional Geospatial Analysis
    • UrbDP 500 Survey of Urban Planning
    • UrbDP 501 Comprehensive Planning and Implementation
    • UrbDP 520 Quantitative Methods in Urban Design and Planning
    • UrbDP 560 Inequality, Governance, and Policy in the Metropolitan Region
    • UrbDP 562 Introduction to Neighborhood Planning and Community Development
    • UrbDP 567 Democracy, Citizenship, and Participation in the City
    • or approved equivalents
  • Urban Development (1 course suggested)



* Non-BLA students must take 1 credit of 600 Directed Studies or L Arch 590 to count this as graduate level for the certificate.

Note that 498s and 598s are temporary numbers and multiple courses are designated as 498 and 598 each quarter—please look for these course titles.

Questions about the Urban Design Program? Email