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ArchitectureUrban design

The Urban Design Studies Unit (UDSU) at the University of Strathclyde studies cities, their form, functions and impact, with the ultimate goal of making them more resilient. Our research aims to address the major interrelated dynamics posed by recent urbanisation processes, in both informal settlements and established cities, which we treat as self-organizing systems. Our goal is to understand and learn how to design-in resilience.

We are committed to research, teaching, and knowledge exchange beyond academia, including consultancy and training. All our research is applied to our teaching and contributes to shaping our approach to urban design and placemaking.

Our research

The Unit was set up in 1988 by Hildebrand Frey, to address problems of urban rehabilitation, renewal and restructuring. Its research originally focused on the city and its origin, its development, form and structure. It then expanded to study a cities’ impact on people and community engagement. Currently the Unit, led by Professor Sergio Porta and Dr Ombretta Romice, is growing its expertise to include the complex relationships between urban form and the broad dynamics of change and evolution.

We have developed international expertise on urban analysis from both a morphological and an experiential angle, urban planning and design, community engagement, identity and sociability of public spaces, network analysis and environmental psychology.

Key research areas

Our research is interdisciplinary, with inputs from urban morphology, urban geography, environmental psychology, evolutionary biology, system ecology, physics of complex networks and architecture. Our research topics are reflected in our MSc in Urban Design Topics of interest include:

Science of Urban Form & Evolution

Our work on urban science is an evidence-based investigation of urban form and how it changes in time. We seek to understand the contribution of urban form to the larger evolution of cities in their social, economic, institutional and environmental aspects.

Urban Design & Masterplanning for Change

Work in this area focuses on how we as urban designers can help generate a sustainable and resilient urban form. We study how to link building density, street centrality, transport, service and retail nodes and ecological networks in an innovative process of masterplanning.

Environmental Psychology & Quality of Life

Whilst strongly encouraged by the UK government and now a compulsory feature of planning, user engagement in design is still not fully understood or effectively performed. Our expertise in the area of public engagement ranges from design to environmental psychology.

Radical Architecture Construction

This line of research is about processes of community-based housing production centred around human experience. Community participation is brought to the next level combining end-user construction and person-centred interaction into community building.

To learn more about UDSU, download the Research at the Urban Design Studies Unit.

Our team

Our research involves working jointly with a number of academics throughout the UK, Europe, and North America and engages with collaborators across the boundaries of academia including public and private sectors.

Academic Leaders

Collaborating academics

PhD students

Topic: Understanding the Urban Form of Informal Settlements.

Topic: Finding the Plot: A plot-based housing development model applied to

physical regeneration in Glasgow.

  • John Alexander Maxwell

Topic: Designing for “Life between buildings”: modelling the relationship between

streetscape qualities and pedestrian activity in Glasgow, Scotland.

  • Jacob Leonard Dibble

Topic: Urban Morphometrics: Towards a Science of Urbanism.

Topic: Measuring urban form and urban life in Baghdad; Tools and frameworks for a quantitative analysis of urban form.

Topic: Construction and therapy: an integrated approach to design build

Topic: Tools for Urban Regeneration n the public space through temporary architectures.

Topic: The Urban Atlas: tools and frameworks for a quantitative analysis of urban form.

Topic: Traditional morphology of settlements in Botswana.

Topic: Users’ perception and understanding of resilience in housing.

Generative and bottom-up urban regeneration in South Africa.

Research grants & projects

  • Urban Form Resilience Project

Funded by: Ax:son Johnson Foundation and Arup Engineering.

  • GALE, Global Accessibility to Local Experience

Funded by: EPSRC grant in collaboration with University of Cambridge Computer Lab and the Queen Mary University Institute for Complex Systems.

  • L’Abitare Futuro / The Future Inhabiting

Funded by: National Consortium of Construction Cooperatives of Italy.

  • Multiple Centrality Assessment (MCA): a strategic modelling tool for use in urban regeneration

Funded by: KTA grant in collaboration with Robert Adam Urbanism.

  • Plot-Based Urbanism: A Field Guide to Masterplanning

Funded by: Bridging the Gap, Faculty of Engineering, University of Strathclyde.

  • Under the Microscope: Small Scottish Towns

Funded by: Research & Development and Architecture & Design Scotland.

  • Gateways to Professions: Urban Design

Funded by: Department for Education and Skills, with RTPI.

Selected Publications

  • Feliciotti A, Romice O, and Porta S, (2018). From system ecology to urban morphology: towards a theory of urban form resilience, in: International Forum on Urbanism: Reframing Urban Resilience Implementation, UIC School of Architecture, Barcelona.
  • Romice O, Porta S and Feliciotti A, (2018). Urban form Resilience Urban Design Practice: Masterplanning for Change, in: International Forum on Urbanism: Reframing Urban Resilience Implementation, UIC School of Architecture, Barcelona.
  • Porta, S., Romice, O., Feliciotti, A., & Rudlin, D. (2018). Big box, short life: little box, long life: the democracy of resilience: plot-based urbanism, evolution and informal participation. In: Create Streets, London.
  • Danenberg R, Mehaffy M, Porta S, & Elmlund P (2018). Main street plot scale in urban design for inclusive economies: Stockholm case studies. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers-UrbanDesign and Planning, 171(6), 258-267.
  • Abubakar A, Romice O, & Salama A. M. (2017). Defining slums using multidimensional and relational properties: A dynamic framework for intervention. ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, 11(2), 34-54.
  • Dibble J, Prelorendjos A, Romice O, et al. (2017). On the origin of spaces: Morphometric foundations of urban form evolution. Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science: 1-24.
  • Venerandi, A, Zanella, M, Romice, O, Dibble, J & Porta, S (2017), Form and urban change: an urban morphometric study of five gentrified neighbourhoods in London, in: Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, vol 44, no. 6, pp. 1056-1076.
  • Remali, AM & Porta, S (2017), Correlating street network and urban blocks in the city centre of Tripoli, in: Journal of Urban Morphology 21(2) pp. 161-179.
  • Feliciotti, A. Romice, O. Porta, S. (2017). Urban regeneration, masterplans and resilience: the case of Gorbals, Glasgow, Journal of Urban Morphology, 21(1).
  • Iovene M, Fernandéz de Córdova G, Romice O, & Porta S (2017). Towards informal planning : mapping the evolution of spontaneous settlements in time. In: 24th ISUF International Conference – City and Territory in the Globalization Age. Universitat Politecnica de Valencia, Valencia, pp. 545-557.
  • Romice, O. Feliciotti, A. Porta, S. (2017). The road to masterplanning for change and the design of resilient places, in: “Archi+Tectonics: architecture, communities and cities under change, in: Proceedings of the7th Annual Symposium of Architectural Research in Finland”, Aalto University, Helsinki
  • Romice, O. Porta S. Feliciotti, A. Barbour, G. (2017). Masterplanning for Change: Design as a way to create the conditions for time sensitive place-making, in: AlWaer, H. Illsley, B. eds., Placemaking: rethinking the masterplanning process, ICE Publisher, formerly Thomas Telford.
  • Kennedy, A. (2017). Scotland's approach to participatory planning: characterising the charrette. ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, 11(2), 101-122.

Discover more about architecture

Our galleries

Take a look in the image gallery to see the range of award winning work that is produced in the Department

Architecture studio

Our experts


Students Andrea Hickey and Neal Hemingway created ChalkTalk for their Masters project, to encourage discussion and stories about architecture and design within the city during the Merchant City Festival.

Future Architecture Workshop: Merchant City Festival 2015

We invited prospective students of architecture to participate in a day long workshop as part of the Merchant City Festival. Explore our city with them!