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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.

Important information for new PhD applicants 

We welcome applications aligned with our recent work on the quantitative analysis of urban form, in any geographical context, and the development of resilient design based on this. 

Students will join our current projects in ‘Urban Morphometrics’ (refs below 1-5) and ‘Masterplanning for Change’ (refs below 6).

For projects in ‘Urban Morphometrics’, applicants will need to possess: 

  • Skills in spatial data science, especially applied to urban geo-data processing 
  • Knowledge of python (advanced) and geo-data analysis (spatial regression, machine learning modelling, clustering) 
  • Familiarity with projection systems and choropleth mapping

For projects in ‘Masterplanning for Change’, applicants will need: 

  • Skills in urban design and masterplanning, GIS and spatial analysis 
  • Knowledge of national and local planning systems

We will be delighted to discuss on any of the above with you. Before contacting us, we ask that you familiarise yourself with the following publications:

  1. Methodological Foundation of a Numerical Taxonomy of Urban Form.
  2. Fleischmann, M, Romice, O & Porta, S (2020). 'Measuring urban form: overcoming terminological inconsistencies for a quantitative and comprehensive morphologic analysis of cities', Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science, pp. 1-18. 
  3. Fleischmann, M., Feliciotti, A., Romice, O. and Porta, S., 2020. Morphological tessellation as a way of partitioning space: Improving consistency in urban morphology at the plot scale. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems80, p.101441.
  4. Porta, S., Romice, O., Maxwell, J. A., Russell, P., & Baird, D. (2014). Alterations in scale: patterns of change in main street networks across time and space. Urban Studies, 51(16), 3383-3400.
  5. Fleischmann, M., 2019. MOMEPY: Urban morphology measuring toolkit. Journal of Open Source Software4(43), p.1807.
  6. Romice, O; Porta, S.; Feliciotti, A. (2020). Masterplanning for Change: Designing the Resilient City. London, RIBA.

We will consider proposals on different subjects only in special circumstances, and in this case, we will ask students to align them with the projects above: e.g., the impact of urban form on Quality of Life can be aligned to both strands of research, as measurement of impact and/or to support design. 

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

PhD studentsTopic
Maddalena Iovene Understanding the Urban Form of Informal Settlements
Gordon Barbour

Finding the Plot: A plot-based housing development model applied to physical regeneration in Glasgow

John Alexander Maxwell

Designing for “Life between buildings”: modelling the relationship between streetscape qualities and pedestrian activity in Glasgow, Scotland.

Jacob Leonard Dibble Urban Morphometrics: Towards a Science of Urbanism
Haider Jasim Essa Al-Saaidy Measuring urban form and urban life in Baghdad; Tools and frameworks for a quantitative analysis of urban form
Maria Pia Vidoli Construction and therapy: an integrated approach to design build
Paolo Robazza Tools for Urban Regeneration n the public space through temporary architectures
Martin Fleischmann The Urban Atlas: tools and frameworks for a quantitative analysis of urban form
Seabo Morobolo Traditional morphology of settlements in Botswana
Zeynep Gur Gunbeyaz Users’ perception and understanding of resilience in housing
Michelle Le Roux 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.

Our research impact

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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

ChalkTalk

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!