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MUD degree sample of student work by G Gouws
Urban Design The Urban Design Masters at Wits is an interdisciplinary studio-based think tank engaged with design visions, strategies and solutions for cities and towns, focused on learning lessons from the globalising cities of the South.
Urban Design The Urban Design Masters at Wits is an interdisciplinary studio-based think tank engaged with design visions, strategies and solutions for cities and towns, focused on learning lessons from the globalising cities of the South.

Qualification: MUD

Faculty: Engineering and the Built Environment

Duration: 2 years

School: Architecture and Planning

Study mode: Part-time


The MUD qualification is a two-year part-time programme on urban design. The focus is on the design of cities in South and Southern Africa, drawing from other precedents globally. In a diverse and complex context, urban design relates closely to architecture, planning and landscape architecture, and other disciplines, to produce a unique focus on the design of spaces for people. In the diversity and complexity of our cities there is a need to understand how spaces operate socially, culturally, politically and economically in order to design places for people.

The degree has a number of core theoretical courses which are practically applied in design studios. The core courses introduce students to understanding cities of the global south in order to appreciate the context within which we design. The theories and histories of urban design provide the tools, precedents, examples, and appreciation of urban design in cities through time. Professional Practice allows students to develop an understanding of how to run an urban design practice, as well as of the mechanisms, regulations and procedures required for the implementation of projects. The core courses are applied in practical ways in urban design studios where the student is exposed to projects involving the preparation of designs in response to context. Research forms a large part of the programme.


The MUD Programme aims, through a number of courses, studio sessions and research, to enable students to develop a comprehensive understanding and a set of skills needed for addressing complex urban challenges. This set of skills would enable students to work at a certain prescribed level and to gain experience in what is an increasingly demanding built environment profession. Students should, at the conclusion of the two-year programme, demonstrate their combined knowledge base of urban design, theory, functional planning, technical development, programming, environmental responsiveness, graphic skills and writing abilities at a high level of sophistication and independence. As an end product students should have a comprehensive portfolio of work, manifested in the Masters of Urban Design Research Report.

The broader aim of the MUD Programme, through the studio and research environment and with guidance from tutors, is to equip students with the skills to create appropriate urban environments, to create an urbanity that is both an expression of dignified human values and a context for human activity and development. Through a design-orientated process and theoretical discourse, students will address the interrelated environmental, behavioural, and cultural issues that underlie the organisation of our cities. Students will be called upon to direct sensitivity, imagination, intellect, and increasingly levels of professional judgement to the physical significance of these fundamental issues in designing a coherent urban environment for people.

Urban design, and the development of a design methodology across all scale levels, and its underlying theoretical base, will be the focus for the Studio and Research Courses.

The programme, therefore, is based on the following intentions:

  • To stimulate the enquiry into the urban condition, addressing it through creative design solutions and reporting on it through a comprehensive research process;
  • To strengthen intellectual growth and the capacity to develop creative and responsible solutions to unique and changing urban challenges;
  • To ensure that the student acquires the individual capabilities and confidence in their design methodology for the practice of urban design;
  • The production of a self-motivated urban design research report, integrating theory, research, design, technology, analysis, representational skills, and proposed implementation.

The Course has a pluralistic approach to the teaching of urbanity and urban design. Students have opportunities to become well acquainted with a wide range of approaches and methodologies. The course does not seek to impose any singular design philosophy, but rather encourages in each student the development of an individual approach to design, based on clear and well-reasoned arguments resulting in a comprehensive Research Report.

TEACHING AND LEARNING METHODS:                                                               

The principle task during the Masters of Urban Design course is the development of a design and research methodology, which would enable the student to deal with varied interrelationships found in the urban condition. Achieving a level of comfort and confidence to deal with complex challenges across all scale levels via analysis, design and research is the primary challenge over the two years of the course.


The design studio is paramount, emphasising the sometimes competing interrelationships between purpose, design, research, analysis, collaboration, innovation, and strategies in an environment that values experimentation.

The studio offers a workshop in which students can gather to present and discuss projects and proposals with fellow students, staff and visiting critics, professionals, and even if possible effected stakeholders of projects and the public.

The design studio combines individual and group instruction, varying from desk critiques with the course convener and the supervisors, to presentations before several tutors, to more formal exams and final reviews before school and guest critics, with the intention of fostering critical thinking and spatial form-making skills, and preparing development framework proposals.

The studio provides a laboratory in which the various course requirements and tasks; research methodologies; histories and theories; visual representations and studio assignments are fused together to achieve a comprehensive approach to urban design. This process of exploration offers the opportunity to conduct detailed research, develop formal design methodologies, formulate strategies and design appropriate responses to each project.

Each studio brief, as well as the Urban Design Research Report has its own goals and associated criteria, some of which will involve group and team work. The process includes site visits, interaction with the community, research into contemporary and historical precedent, critical investigation of intervention opportunities and options, and the exploration and development of detailed projects.

MUD Curriculum 2021

1st Year

Semester 1                           

ARPL7010A Understanding Cities of the South, 20 credits 

ARPL7011A Urban Design Theory and History, 20 credits 

ARPL 7059A Accessible City Studio, 10 credits 

Semester 2 

ARPL7057A Urban Design Professional Practice,  10 credits 

ARPL7061A Transforming City Studio, 10 credits 

ARPL7058A Global City Studio, 10 credits 

2nd Year

ARPL7040A Research Methods, 10 credits 

ARPL7062A  Urban Design and Studio Course, 90 credits

ARPL7010A Understanding Cities of the South, 20 credits 

This course is aimed at understanding the many forces that shape cities of the South. These include development processes (legal, formal and informal economic), governance issues, environmental issues, transport, land use, infrastructure, services, power and politics (macro economics, structural adjustment, questions of sovereignty, gender, poverty, and inequality), as well as the discourses of modernity, globalisation and post-colonialism.

This course further explores the main dynamics and processes that shape cities in the contemporary era and key challenges experienced. It considers the major international development agendas for urban development, and their implications for urban planning. The evolution of approaches to urban development planning is discussed and contemporary approaches are evaluated. The course includes a study of both international literature and literature with a focus on the South African urban context.

ARPL 7011 Urban Design Theory and History

Cities have been compared to slow growing organisms, ordered in such a way that growth and change can be accommodated over time. This course aims to introduce students to principles of city structure that accommodate change and flexibility. These principles are implicit in South African cities but can only be recognised and uncovered through analysis of how cities evolve and change in the course of time. Students learn to trace the consequences of urban decisions: some remaining visible and others of which no trace remains. The course includes the study of international cities, also with structuring principles that have withstood change.

Throughout the course, the following theoretical aspects of city making throughout history will be considered:

  • History of urban form
  • Basic principles in urban design
  • Urban Morphology – the patterns of change over time and the forces that create such change
  • Spatial relationships in the built environment
  • Processes and methodologies in urban design
  • Urban networks (including movement systems, infrastructure, and experiential networks)
  • The role of the natural environment and local context on city making
  • Changes and adaptations of cities.

ARPL 7059A Accessible City Studio, ARPL7061A Transforming City Studio, ARPL7058A Global City Studio, 30 credits/ 10 per studio

The studios adopt the position that space-making is a political act. The design of space, especially in emerging democracies such as South Africa, is premised with political agendas. These agendas can range from progressive and utopian, to repressive and unjust. It is our obligation to be mindful of the relationship between space and political agendas. The studios will aim to explore ways in which critical thinking and considered design can facilitate particular political positions.

ARPL7062A  Urban Design and Studio Course, 90 credits

The urban design research report represents the culmination of the competencies gained during the Master of Urban Design programme. The primary aim of the course is to facilitate the production of a self-motivated urban design research report, integrating theory, research, design, technology, analysis, representational skills, and proposed implementation.

An urban design research report is more than a major studio project. It is required that each student put forward and investigate a personal position about urban design and the built environment, and to do so through solid research and analysis, written text and an urban design proposal.

The theoretical discourse or enquiry, which is articulated in the proposal and developed throughout the year, is expected to result in a spatial design strategy. Based on this strategy, and an evaluation process of the enquiry, a proposed spatial design for a chosen site is to be developed. The outcome of this design process is therefore a response to the evaluation of the enquiry and its related findings. In that sense, theory and spatial design are an integrated and iterative process.

The research report is an opportunity for each student to enquire into and focus on a chosen aspect of urban design. The writing of the research report provides a stimulus for the exploration of ideas and critical issues, deemed important by the student.

With this in mind, all candidates are advised to take a longer-term view, while preparing their research report. The preparation should not merely fulfil the immediate course requirements. Rather, it should be structured by each individual in such a way that it supports the quest for life-long learning.

ARPL7040A Research Methods

This course is an essential guideline for students to establish a methodology towards a research topic. Students are assisted in developing a research proposal and provided with an understanding of the various proposal components. This course also assists with the establishment of a relevant research question and position statement. Students are directed to relevant precedents and case studies to allow for comparative research. Applying design thinking to real-world research forms a critical component of the research methodology and the eventual compilation of an MUD Research Proposal.

Applicants holding any of the following, or comparable, degrees are eligible to apply:

  • BArch
  • BAS (Hons)
  • MArch (Prof)
  • BSc (TRP) or BSc (Hons) (URP); or
  • MSc (Landscape)

Applicants are required to have a minimum of 65% average in their honours or equivalent year. Prior learning may also make a candidate eligible for admission as a candidate for the degree, as determined individually by the Senate.

The online application MUD has two steps:

Step 1: Applicants must compete the ‘University Application Process’ (please see further details in the accordion below) and upload the following documents:

  • Certified degree certificate and transcript
  • Certified translation if the transcript is not in English
  • SAQA accreditation if degrees are not from South African institutions
  • ID/ Passport

Step 2: CV and Visual work portfolio to be uploaded via the link

Applicants must submit a portfolio of visual work undertaken during prior studies (with an emphasis on final year of study) and evidence of practical work, if applicable, in the form of examples of work completed, including sketches, and a comprehensive resume/CV.


  • You should include a range of projects, from the beginning of your studies to the present.
  • The portfolio should not contain all work completed but rather a representative and carefully edited selection. 
  • The portfolio must express the ability of the student to think analytically about their work using graphics, by means of hand sketches, analytical diagrams, associated research and descriptive texts.
  • The work contained in the portfolio should be in chronological order with headings, associated descriptive texts and a contents page up front.
  • Reference needs to be made of how the work relates to the academic curriculum of the respective academic institution and, in the case of work undertaken in an architectural or urban design practice, students should indicate what their specific role was in the work included.
  • In addition, applicants are requested to include a statement of purpose of why you would like to study urban design and where the degree would lead you professionally, in combination with your current qualifications, max 500 words/ 1 typed page
  • Add letters of recommendation, including teaching staff and from an employer, if applicable.

Portfolio Size and Format

Portfolio to be submitted as one PDF with max 20 pages, A4 size, with an additional cover page, name, address, skills, short CV.

  • Max 20 pages own work from your prior studies, and professional practice excluding CV and cover page, not more than 10 MB, single PDF.

For more information, please contact the Postgraduate Administrator.  

31st August – International Applicants 30 September– South African citizens and permanent residents
  • Applications are handled centrally by the Student Enrolment Centre (SEnC). Once your application is complete in terms of requested documentation, your application will be referred to the relevant School for assessment. Click here to see an overview of the Wits applications process.
  • Please apply online. Upload your supporting documents at the time of application, or via the Self Service Portal.
  • Applicants can monitor the progress of their applications via the Self Service Portal.
  • Selections for programmes that have a limited intake but attract a large number of applications may only finalise the application at the end of the application cycle.

Please note that the Entry Requirements are a guide. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee a place. Final selection is made subject to the availability of places, academic results and other entry requirements where applicable.

International students, please check this section.

For more information, contact the Student Call Centre +27 (0)11 717 1888, or log a query at

Click here to see the current average tuition fees. The Fees site also provides information about the payment of fees and closing dates for fees payments. Once you have applied you will be able to access the fees estimator on the student self-service portal.

For information about postgraduate funding opportunities, including the postgraduate merit award, click here. Please also check your School website for bursary opportunities. NRF bursaries: The National Research Foundation (NRF) offers a wide range of opportunities in terms of bursaries and fellowships to students pursuing postgraduate studies. External bursaries portal: The Bursaries South Africa website provides a comprehensive list of bursaries in South Africa.