The program is situated at the trans-disciplinary crossroad of critical urban studies, urbanism and urban planning, architecture theory, sociology and urban ethnography.
Best Masters in Urban and Regional Planning in Estonia 2017. Master in Urban Studies
The two-year Master’s program in Urban Studies combines rigorous academic research with intensive field-work. The program is situated at the trans-disciplinary crossroad of critical urban studies, urbanism and urban planning, architecture theory, sociology and urban ethnography. Our students have previous academic background in architecture and/or humanities. Integrating critical interrogation and experimental practice, the program has a triple focus on social uses, spatial programs and urban forms.
The form of assignments includes term-long research studios, intensive workshops, lectures, seminars, and field trips. The distinctive mark of the Master in Urban Studies is its reliance on theoretically informed action in the field. We take students’ effort seriously: the program engages ‘real’ actors and create opportunities for public presentation, discussion and publishing of best works.
The Master’s program is fully in English and it has a strong international orientation. We cooperate with a network of partner institutions in Europe and we are connected to regional partners in Finland, Baltic countries and Russia. Curriculum includes number of workshops and lecture courses by international scholars and practitioners. Students also participate in hosting the annual international conference Urban and Landscape Days in Tallinn.
The education prepares students to engage with urban issues at the intersection between design practice, political practice and theoretical knowledge. The program prepares graduates for further study at the PhD level.
As events and transformations of the recent decades have forcefully shown, the urban question permeates all major social, economic, and political developments of today. The interdisciplinary Master’s program in Urban Studies critically engages with the wide-ranging manifestation of contemporary urbanity, integrating knowledge from urban studies, urbanism and urban planning, architecture theory, sociology, urban ethnography and geography.
Contemporary urban situation is studied as a multifaceted phenomenon, which cannot be understood from a single disciplinary perspective. In preparing students for understanding and intervening in urban space, the dual character of city as a built form and as a social process is emphasised. The program leads students to have an insight in the dynamics of institutions, actors, and conflicts that shape today’s cities.
The mission of the English-speaking Master’s program in Urban Studies is to understand and analyse contemporary urban problems and act upon these problems in terms of design, policy, activism, and research. The education prepares students to engage with urban issues at the intersection between design practice, political practice and theoretical knowledge (urban design, urban and spatial planning, state and municipal policy making, public expertise, community advocacy, social activism, academic and practice-based research). The program prepares graduates for further study at the PhD level.
The Master’s program is fully in English and it has a strong international orientation. It offers regular guest lectures and lectures courses by international scholars and practitioners. The element of interactivity is important and students often work in small groups. Intensive urban fieldwork is complemented by regular consultations with teachers.
History of the program
Combining influences from typomorphological approach of Aldo Rossi and conceptual urbanism of Rem Koolhaas’ OMA, the program was established by professor Jan Verwijnen in early 2000s. From the start, the Urban Studies curriculum linked architecture to philosophy, urban history, critical economic theory, cultural studies and knowledge of new planning tools. The driving idea was to re-ground architecture and urbanism, so that projects – defined as “urban interventions” – would grow from contemporary urban phenomena, not from ossified professional practices or historical models. The program was characterised by an intense interest in everyday life, its spatial context and new conceptualisations of space as a process. The first Urban Studies Days were organised in 2004. The aim was to bring in high-level international experts and to discuss Tallinn’s planning and urban development in the spirit of Berlin’s Stadtforum. Later the event was renamed Urban and Landscape Days, and it is organised annually in April or May. In 2005, Panu Lehtovuori took the responsibility in 2005 to run the program and develop the curriculum. Since autumn 2012, the program has been led by Dr. Maros Krivy.
The Master’s program in Urban Studies provides the students with:
theoretical ground for understanding urban history and contemporary urban development,
practical research and methodological skills for analysing urban situations in a rich, comprehensive and interdisciplinary way,
design skills engaging the student in work on urban and spatial planning,
international and comparative perspective.
Pedagogically, the curriculum consists of:
lectures courses, in which key debates in contemporary urban studies an architectural theory is presented,
reading seminars, where students are engaged in critical discussion of these debates,
semester-long research studios, the core element of the program, in which students analyse, engage and propose solutions to ‘real’ urban situations, utilising wide range of planning (scenario planning, interventions) and academic (interviews, observation, archival research) methods,
seminaries held by invited lecturers, who provide expert knowledge on multiple fields central to the urban question (geography, history, art history, detailed planning, software tools),
annually changing workshops and courses on topical themes, which are shared between first and second year MA students, helping the two groups to integrate.
The basic structure of the Master’s program is as follows:
1st year, autumn term: urban and architectural theory, typomorphology studio
1st year, spring term: scenario-planning studio
2nd year, autumn term: urban research studio, urban planning studio (held in collaboration with students of Architecture program)
2nd year, spring term: Master’s thesis.
Depending on their background discipline, prospective students have an outstanding portfolio of either design or written work (realised or published work is not required, but it is an advantage) in a field relevant to the discipline of Urban Studies (architecture, planning, social sciences, art history, etc.). Students’ strong interest in urban phenomena, manifested in their previous work at the level of design skills and/or research experience is decisive. Crucially, prospective students are able to manifest that they are willing and capable to integrate these two forms of urban knowledge in their Master’s studies. Prospective students are able to formulate original questions, problems and approaches that they would like to pursue during the Master’s studies. Fluent command of English language is required.
The process of selecting prospective students has two rounds. In the first round, the applicants are assessed based on the submitted portfolio of written and/or design work and the CV. In the second round, in-depth interviews are conducted with prospective candidates.
The requirement for admissions to Master’s studies is a Bachelor’s degree, higher education obtained on the basis of professional higher education curriculum or other relevant qualification that gives access to Master’s studies. Educational certificates issued abroad are recognized by Estonian Academy of Arts on the basis of the assessments and opinions of the Estonian ENIC/NARIC Centre.
The admission period for international applicants is March 1st till May 1st, 2016. Application can be filled online.
The admission period for Estonian applicants is June 20th till July 3rd, 2016. Application can be filled online.