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 emphasized. 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 analyze 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 characterized by an intense interest in everyday life, its spatial context and new conceptualisations of space as a process. The first Urban Studies Days were organized 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 organized annually in April or May. In 2005, Panu Lehtovuori took the responsibility in 2005 to run the program and develop the curriculum. From autumn 2012, the program is led by Dr. Maros Krivy.