Master of Urban Design
Stefan Gruber Track Chair
The Master of Urban Design (MUD) is a studio-based program distinguished by its emphasis on integrating socially engaged practice with new tools and techniques for representing, understanding, and designing cities; by the opportunity to work in trans-disciplinary teams at the intersection of the arts, humanities and technology across Carnegie Mellon's departments and colleges; and by its location in Pittsburgh—a thriving post-industrial laboratory.
Program Overview & Distinctive Characteristics
The Master of Urban Design (MUD) degree is a post-professional, two-year program that prepares graduates for careers using urban design to critically address environmental, economic, social, political, and cultural issues affecting contemporary urbanization. The studio-based curriculum allows students to explore design strategies in a variety of scales and settings, from the post-industrial city to the dense metropolis, from sprawling suburbia to informal settlements.
The MUD program has been assigned CIP (Classification of Instructional Programs) codes by the Department of Education that are STEM-eligible. This means that in addition to one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT), a student on an F1 visa may apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension following graduation. For more information, please also refer to the Master’s Student Handbook.
The studio sequence is supported by small-group seminars and workshops to develop the skill sets necessary for an urban designer in the twenty-first century. Students graduate with a firm grasp of the history, theory and practice that has established urban design as a discipline, as well as skills in cutting-edge media and design methods.
Students take required and elective courses in the School of Architecture and elective courses in other graduate programs at the six other colleges within the university.
CMU's MUD program is both venerable and innovative, shaped by these and other distinctive conditions:
A strong legacy of participatory urban design. Beginning in 1964, the School of Architecture pioneered the Urban Laboratory concept, wherein students and faculty work in the field and engage with citizens on neighborhood revitalization projects. Here, you will learn to negotiate top-down planning and the self-organizing behavior of cities.
Location in a transformed post-industrial city. Pittsburgh, perhaps the quintessential post-industrial city, has transformed itself since 1985 from a declining economy based on heavy industry to a robust and diverse economy based on technology and education. Here, you can experience, study and contribute to building urban resilience.
Active participation in the technological ethos of Carnegie Mellon. Benefitting from Carnegie Mellon’s unique research culture, the Master of Urban Design program redefines socially engaged practice in the 21st century. Here, you will apply emerging media and advanced technology to pursue human-centered design.
The Program Experience
In the first year, the MUD studios provide a foundation in place making and integrated urban systems design, using Pittsburgh as an urban laboratory and collaborating with local communities. In the second year, the fall and spring studios engage in a research-based design project exploring the negotiation of top-down design and bottom-up transformations of cities. One recent example for the research produced within the MUD program is the exhibition and publication project, “An Atlas of Commoning.” The collective research provides a stepping stone for defining individual thesis proposals that are pursued in the last semester. Previous international studios have worked in Doha, Kigali, Berlin Barcelona, London, Toronto and New York City. A field trip to an international city is part of the program experience.
In the summer between Year One and Year Two, students are encouraged to secure an internship at an architecture, urban design, or planning firm, or at a public agency or non-profit development organization. Summer internships are valuable in utilizing newly acquired skills and knowledge in a professional setting. However, the internship is not required and is not credit-bearing.
Our graduates go onto becoming leaders in urban design and architecture firms, working for community organizations and municipalities, or pursuing a PhD and research careers.
In addition to the standard requirements for all graduate students in the School of Architecture, students in the MUD program must satisfy the following:
Students must complete a minimum of 180 units of coursework for graduation.
Each semester requires a minimum of 36 units to achieve Full Time Status; however, the typical semester course load is 45 units.
Core course substitutions are allowed only with the consent of the Track Chair.
Student & Faculty Work
Comprised of experienced practicing professionals, researchers, and educators, the MUD program faculty spans the fields of urban design, architecture, planning, public policy, and digital media. Many MUD faculty work in CMU’s international urban design research center, the Remaking Cities Institute (RCI), which conducts interdisciplinary research in place-making, urban systems, citizen engagement, and sustainable development. Students may engage in assistantships in the RCI through faculty-led research projects.
Please feel free to contact Track Chair Stefan Gruber with questions about the MUD program.
Program Application Requirements
Entering students must possess at minimum a bachelor's degree in a studio-based program in architecture, landscape architecture, or urban/city planning (B.Arch, B.L.Arch, BA/BS Architecture, BA/BS Landscape Architecture, or BA/BS Planning). Design portfolios are a requirement of the application for admission.
Admitted candidates may apply for advanced standing based on previous coursework or professional experience, eliminating the first semester, and allowing them to begin studies in the Spring term. Advanced standing is also available to qualified CMU students in the B.Arch program through the Accelerated Master Program (AMP).