The program has about 50% international students, a very international curriculum and a range of overseas studios, which have included trips to Bangkok, Shanghai, Shenyang and Mostar. Our current BMB Project – a three-year collaboration between universities in Bordeaux, Melbourne and Bangkok – involves a series of workshops, studios and conferences in all three cities, focused on the design of urban waterfronts. A diverse range of staff and practitioners teach the MUD program, and it connects sideways with masters programs in architecture and landscape architecture. The core MUD group are Darko Radovic (Head of Program), Steven Whitford and Kim Dovey who bring a range of expertise and experience in ecological and cultural sustainability, design practice and urban theory. All three are also involved in public debate, research, publishing, design competitions and consultation. While there is a base level of knowledge and skill to be achieved, our goal is to graduate students with a high capacity for critical thinking and an open mind towards a multiplicity of urban futures.
A core definition is that urban design is the ‘shaping of public space’. ‘Shaping’, because it is about the design of urban form: it is more than urban regulation. ‘Public space’, because it shapes the space of public encounter: it is more than architecture or landscape architecture. Urban design is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary practice more than a discrete discipline in itself. It is one of those practices which falls through the cracks between the disciplines. It is, in one sense at least, undisciplined. It is no one’s territory yet everyone thinks they own it (which is why it appears on so many letterheads).
Urban design is conceived as the intersection between the professional practices of urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture and property development. Urban design is as old, and as complicated, as cities are. Like MUD, it’s fluid, it’s messy and it sticks to whatever it touches. The Master of Urban Design is the glue linking disciplines together and the site of debates between them. A core value of the course is a commitment to a multiplicity of ideas coupled with a critical attitude to ideology (formularised ideas). There are many kinds of great cities—great cities are always multipli-cities. As a field of both knowledge and practice, urban design is a fluid and muddy deterritorialized zone, which is a large part of why it is so interesting.