Jun 13, 2024  
Graduate Record 2023-2024 
Graduate Record 2023-2024 [ARCHIVED RECORD]

Urban Design, M.U.D.


Admission to the Master of Urban Design program will require a professional degree or equivalent in architecture, landscape architecture, or urban planning from a degree program that is accredited by the national accrediting body for the profession (Bachelor of Architecture, Master of Architecture, Master of Landscape Architecture, Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, Master of Urban and Environmental Planning, Master of Planning, Bachelor of Planning, or foreign equivalent). In exceptional cases, the Director of Urban Design may grant admission to candidates with a non-professional design degree, like a BS in Architecture, after an extensive review of the candidates’ application materials, including the academic record, design portfolio, and experience in professional practice.

All students will be required to complete the general admission requirements of the Graduate School of Architecture.

For additional information please visit www.virginia.edu/arch

Master of Urban Design Curricula

The Master of Urban Design (MUD) degree is a 45- credit hour program. The MUD program will provide advanced education in urban design history, theory, analysis, and applied practice, with an emphasis on hands-on experience in the spatial design of environments across a variety of sites, scales, and regional contexts. At the core of the curriculum is a three-semester sequence of urban design studios created specifically for Master of Urban Design students. Through these 18 credits of intense, focused project-based design training and skill-building, students will explore the environmental, structural, geographic, and social factors impacting the sustainability and resilience of cities along the Northeastern Seaboard, urbanization processes in selected sites around the globe, and urban strategies that address social and environmental justice. With an emphasis on interdisciplinary, evidence-based design, the studios will train students to conduct, analyze and apply advanced research on significant urban challenges, including spatial equity and climate change.

The studio sequence will run alongside a trio of core seminars that will educate students in urban history and theory, urban analysis and technology, and urban design strategies and engagement methodologies. Students will learn various tools and software to simulate, model, and visualize urban design projects; and build their collaboration skills to effectively disseminate their research and design work to key constituencies and partners.

Restricted electives that are offered at the School of Architecture and the University will introduce students to the processes of global urbanization, and the allied fields of urban ecology and urban economics, developing competencies that will be integrated and applied in their studio projects. Throughout the interwoven studio-seminar sequence, students will work together to examine urban design challenges through the lens of multiple disciplines; share working methods and acquire new skills; and identify, evaluate, and apply best practices and effective, innovative design solutions. Open electives, chosen from the wide-ranging offerings of the School of Architecture and the University at large, will allow students to further tailor the program to their personal interests.

During the last semester, students will work on a thesis project that can be conducted under the umbrella of a Research Studio or independently. Students are advised to dedicate on elective seminar towards their thesis research.

The MUD is a 3-semester program. Students who successfully completed the Urban Design Certificate at UVA can enter the MUD with advanced standing and complete the program within 2 semesters.

Urban Design Thesis

Students will complete a thesis in the third and final required studio, UD 8030 – Urban Design Thesis Studio. Students must conduct original, independent research that informs an urban design project and will be expressed through 1) the conceptual framing of the urban design research project, 2) visual representations such as plans, renderings, diagrams, analytical drawings, and physical models; and 3) a brief written text of 1,500 up to 3,000 words. The project will be presented to a jury of internal and external reviewers and submitted in digital and physical form. Students conducting an independent thesis will need to prepare the content a semester prior in an independent study or an open elective. The outline of the thesis proposal will be submitted and evaluated by the MUD committee and Graduate Director for Urban Design.

Alternatively, students can choose to enroll in ALAR 8010 Urban Research Studio I and conduct their thesis within the context of the offered design research studio. Students can also apply for a study abroad programs [Barcelona and Venice] and when accepted can fulfill the thesis in these studios. Additional design research will be required to fulfill the thesis project and can be produced in the context of an open elective. Students who are entering the MUD with advanced standing from the UDC will conduct their thesis project in the UD 8020 Design Research Studio.

In each case, the work will be reviewed by faculty who will determine whether the thesis meets the School of Architecture’s standards for originality, significance in the design field, use of research, and quality of design. The thesis will be issued a grade and must meet a minimum of a B-.

If a student does pass the course with a minimum grade requirement of B-, they will be given a detailed evaluation and plan for revisions. The student will be expected to complete all revisions and resubmit the report the following semester of the initial submission. The student may be directed to undertake additional coursework or other measures deemed necessary for the success of the recommended revisions. A second grade below a B- will result in dismissal from the degree program.

Master of Urban Design Degree Curriculum

Program Requirements

Summer Term- 3 credits*

  • ALAR 5010 – Introduction to Design - Credits: 1
  • ALAR 5020 – Introduction to Design Visualization - Credits: 1
  • ALAR 5030 – Introduction to Design Theory and Analysis - Credits: 1

* Only for students entering the program with a degree in urban planning and with limited to no prior design education. The 3 credits for SDI can be exchanged for an open elective in spring to equal 45 credits.  

Semester 1 fall-15 credits

  • UD 8010 - Urban Design Foundation Studio (6 credits)
  • UD 8611 - Urban Analysis and Technology (3 credits)
  • Restricted Elective (3 credits)
  • Open Elective, School of Architecture (3 credits)

Semester 2 spring-15 credits

  • UD 8020 - Design Research Studio (6 credits), Combined course ALAR 8020
  • UD 8612 - Urban Design History and Theory (3 credits)
  • UD 8614 - Urban Strategies (3 credits), Combined course ARCH/PLAN 5614
  • Restricted Elective (3 credits) *


Students who are indenting to work on an independent thesis in semester 3 can move one of the open electives from fall into the spring semester. This can be conducted by having 18 credits in the spring and 12 credits in the following fall or by exchanging the restricted elective with an open elective.

Semester 3 fall-15 credits

  • UD 8030 - Urban Design Thesis Studio (6 credits)  
  • ALAR 8010 - Research Studio I attributed to UD (6 credits)
  • Restricted Elective (3 credits)
  • Open Elective School of Architecture (3 credits)
  • Open Elective University of Virginia (3 credits)

Core Courses Required: 27 Credits:

  • UD 8010 – Urban Design Foundation Studio* (6 credits)
  • UD 8020 – Urban Design Research Studio (6 credits) Combined course ALAR 8020
  • UD 8030 – Urban Design Thesis Studio* (6 credits)
  • UD 8611 – Urban Analysis and Technologies (3 credits)
  • UD 8612 – Urban Design History and Theory (3 credits)
  • UD 8614 – Urban Strategies (3 credits) Combined course ARCH/PLAN 5614

Restrictive Electives: 9 Credits

Students need to choose one course from each of the following three content areas. Specific classes will be identified at the time of enrollment and students will receive guidance during this process. The terms for the restricted electives are identified in the curriculum. Changes to this schedule are possible but need to be discussed with the MUD Director during enrollment.

  • Urban Climate Ecology and Environment (3 credits)
  • Global Territories and Social Justice (3 credits)
  • Urban Economy and Spatial Policies (3 credits)

Electives: 9 Credits:

Students choose one course from each of the following three categories. The terms for the electives are identified in the curriculum. Changes to this schedule are possible but need to be discussed with the MUD Director during enrollment.

  • One urban design elective within the School of Architecture (3 credits)
  • One urban design elective within the School of Architecture or across the University (3 credits)
  • One independent research or open elective in relation to a thesis project (3 credits)

Total Credits: 45