Urban Theory and Gaining from Land Use Transactions Game

Course introduction

With the share of the world population in urban areas rising to 70% in 2050, it is of ever-increasing importance to understand how cities evolve and function over time. Cities are continuously formed and transformed by complex social, physical, and environmental processes. Understanding cities requires to recognise, define, and describe these complex and multidisciplinary processes.
Urban Theory (UT) is a three-week course. It alternates online and physical learning and teaching. This introductory course provides concepts and analytical tools that will be further developed within the chosen specialisation.

Course objectives

The overall learning objective of the course is understanding how and why cities emerge and change over time. Moreover, this course emphasizes the sustainability aspect of urbanisation. By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Comprehend the different theories embedded in Urban Theory.
  • Apply perspectives in order to describe why and how cities evolve within different (local, regional and national) contexts and time periods.
  • Compare and contrast the different lenses that academic and interdisciplinary perspectives take in order to acknowledge urban evolutions.
  • Understand the evolution and development of cities within different contexts and time periods.
  • Develop the skills required to critically analyse urban challenges at various stages.
  • Convincingly communicate ideas, plans and arguments, supported by theory – orally - visually and in writing.

The course introduces the following academic perspectives: urban theory; complexity theory; urban economic development; urban social development, urban spatial development; and urban environmental development.

Course content

This course aims to introduce relevant urban theories and concepts from growth, complexity and sustainability context:

Introduction: Urbanisation
During the first two days of the course, participants are introduced to urbanisation processes in history and to its main theories as well as recommended literature.
Week 1: Urban Complexity, Resilience & Sustainability
In the first week, students learn about complexity theory, resilience, and sustainability and start applying this knowledge to different case studies. an introduction to the processes of urbanization and urban transitions in history and to the evolution of urbanism, culminating in the current concepts of urban complexity, sustainability and resilience.
Week 2: Perspective Workshops
During the second week, students join their specialisation group for the first time. Six workshops are offered, one by every specialisation track. Participants attend their specialisation workshop and can choose a second workshop. The workshops introduce how wicked urban problems are perceived by their area of specialisation by using the concepts of complexity, sustainability and resilience. Students apply the theory in an assignment.
Week 3: Final Assignment Week – Reflections and self - study
This entails writing an individual paper and creating an infographic. See assessment for more info.
Week 4: GLUT (scheduled for January 2021)
A pedagogical game, “Gaining with Land Use Transactions” (GLUT), whereby key actors negotiate positions in a stylist city mediated by markets and regulations. Here participants have an opportunity to experiment how the complex interrelation of social, economic, environmental and political factors impact on the spatial structure of cities.

Course information


Urban Management and Development


Block 1




Jan Fransen and Alexander Jachnow

Coordinator of GLUT game

Carlos Morales-Schechinger




Lectures, case-study group work, individual and group work exercises, workshops, game (GLUT), presentations and visualisations, self-study.


Infographic, short presentations (Pecha Kucha style), written paper, E-portfolio.

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