CABE urban design summer school

CABE and its partners developed the urban design summer school in response to the need for an accessible, intensive urban design learning event.

Since it was launched in 2004, a total of 775 delegates have attended a CABE urban design summer school. Feedback from delegates has always been extremely positive, justifying its position as one of CABE’s ‘flagship’ learning programmes. On the following pages you can find out about the individual summer schools: locations, details of recent programmes as well as some of the presentations.

Spread over four days, the summer school acts as a hothouse, helping people develop the knowledge, skills and passion to confidently create successful places, whether in an urban, sub-urban or rural context. It is a unique learning forum, bringing together different disciplines to share learning, strengthen networks and enhance multi-disciplinary team working, both at the school and back in the workplace.

At the time of writing, MADE, who led the consortium that delivered the 2010 school, are intending to run an international urban design summer school in June 2011.  Details can be found at

Learning from real places

Every year the urban design summer school moves to a different location, identifying new design challenges and contexts to explore from towns, cities and regions across England.  

Each day focuses on a different stage of the design process, looking at the issues at different scales. In the process delegates get the opportunity to experience a range of  activities and approaches, all aimed at making learning as effective and enjoyable as possible, including:

Plenary presentations

Keynote and high-profile speakers address the whole school, providing the bigger picture and inspiration from delivered projects throughout the UK and beyond.

City walk

On the first day delegates observe and analyse parts of the host city to develop a common understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

The big design project

This hands-on workshop, which continues throughout the programme, introduces delegates to a real development site nearby.  Drawing on the theme of each day, delegates then work in groups to develop an urban structure and layout for the site, and also to design one of the public spaces of their masterplan in more detail.

Site visits

The site visit is the starting point, helping delegates gain an understanding of the project site and assess the qualities of the place.

Group work

Additional group work sessions provide opportunities to learn from the perspectives of fellow delegates and offer direction in taking the learning back to their workplaces.

Shop for skills

At various points delegates select workshops to pick up specific urban design skills based on their particular needs and interests. Topics focus on skills related to analysis, design, presentation and delivery.

Anatomy of a development

Using a key local development to identify the critical factors in the delivery process that reinforce or undermine quality, calling witnesses from the various stakeholders that shaped the new place and examining alternative strategies.

Although the programme has evolved over time, in response to new and emerging themes and challenges, at the core of all summer schools is a focus on:

  • Individual delegates’ learning
  • the role of design and sustainability at all stages of the development process
  • design at different scales: the ‘big picture’ and the detailed one
  • raising commitment to the quality of design
  • gaining insights through the sharing of delegate experiences
  • promoting your professional effectiveness through action planning
  • networking and post-school sessions.

Find out about past programmes

There have now been seven CABE urban design summer schools. More information about each can be found on the following pages: