Urban design summer school 2007

123 delegates attended this year’s urban design summer school, the first delivered in partnership with a new consortium led by Birmingham City University. Satisfaction levels were again high, with 90% of delegates rating the school good or very good.

Photo by Oliver James

Learning from the heart of England

Birmingham is a city recognised internationally for successful regeneration and in 2007 it played host to the CABE urban design summer school. Appropriately for a city that has seen so much positive change in recent times, the theme of the event was transformation: the art of creating successful places.

From the multi-award winning Brindley Place development that put the city centre back on the map and re-imagined Birmingham's wealth of waterways to the on-going renewal of its old industrial sites and social housing stock, Birmingham is a flagship for design-led regeneration. The transformation of the city continues apace and, delegate benefited from visiting real sites and projects that are changing the face of the region.

Evening events included visits to Argent’s Brindley Place and Urban Splash’s Fort Dunlop. The course itself was built around “Big Design Projects”, with delegates choosing two of the following three sites.

  • Edge of City Centre: the challenge was to design a mixed use development which will extend the city centre and integrate with a new linear city park. There is a significant historic building on site and difficult edges created by canals and railways.
  • Social housing estate: the challenge was to plan a design intervention in a Radburn-style social housing estate bounded on two sides by busy highways. The site includes two local schools. Would it be possible to create a sustainable neighbourhood where others have failed?
  • Market town: a failed 1960s shopping precinct and car parks were the third design challenge. Could you create designs and uses which would revitalise the town and balance its areas of activity? How would you integrate your proposals with the historic environment?

We would like to thank Birmingham City Council, Urban Living (the Birmingham and Sandwell housing market renewal body) and Tamworth Borough Council for helping us to identify these challenging study sites.

Sunday 24 June

  • 12.00pm - Registration opens
  • 2.30pm - Summer school begins: welcome and opening announcements
  • 2.45pm - Ice-breaker exercise
  • 3.15pm - Briefing for urban wander
  • 3.30pm - Urban wander
    Exploratory walks through designed environments
  • 4.45pm - Depart wander location
  • 5.15pm - Return to conference venue for refreshments
  • 5.30pm - Facilitated workshop
    Expressing qualities of good places
  • 6.15pm - Literacy hour 1
    Rob Cowan on the language of urban design followed by group work
  • 7.15pm - Pre-dinner break
  • 7.45pm - Opening dinner
  • 9.00pm - After dinner speaker and formal opening of the school
  • 10.00pm - To bed or bar

Monday 25 June

  • 8.50am - Delegates assemble
  • 9.00am - Big project 1 briefing
  • 9.15am - Depart for the three big project sites
  • 11.15am - Return for refreshments
  • 11.30am - Speaker From vision to application, John Worthington (download)
  • 12.00pm - Hot tips and tricks Visual representation of design ideas
    (Urban structure by Scott Adams and The Building Futures Game by John Worthington)
  • 1.00pm - Lunch
  • 2.00pm - Shop for skills Workshops on key approaches to analysis:
    Resource use
    Character analysis/Lynchian analysis
    Movement-based analysis
    Constraints analysis
    Economic analysis
  • 2.45pm - Big project 1 analysis Facilitated group work analysing the sites
  • 3.45pm - Tea and coffee break
  • 4.00pm - Big project 1 Facilitated group work on production of design brief
  • 4.45pm - Literacy hour 2
    Visual literacy: presentation on visuals in urban design and the different ways of showing plans
  • 5.45pm - Talkshop 1 Themed networking session
  • 6.30pm - Pre-dinner break
  • 7.15pm - Walkers depart for central Birmingham
  • 7.30pm - Networking event Hosted by the Urban Land Institute
  • 8.30pm - Eating and drinking At Brindleyplace,
    sponsored by Argent (using vouchers)

Tuesday 26 June

  • 8.50am - Delegates assemble
  • 9.00am - Keynote speaker
    The big picture in urban design
  • 9.45am - Big project 2
    Analysing the brief, thinking about options
    Tea and coffee on tap
  • 12.00pm - Shop for skills
    Hot tips and tricks 2
  • 1.00pm - Lunch
  • 2.00pm - Lakeside gathering
  • 2.30pm - Big project 2
    Produce designs
  • 4.00pm - Refreshment break
  • 4.15pm - Literacy hour 3
    The big words in urban design: sustainability, liveability, inclusiveness, community, mixed-use, neighbourhood, etc.
  • 5.15pm - Structured critique of designs
  • 6.00pm - Talkshop 2
  • 6.45pm - Pre-dinner break
  • 7.15pm - Coaches depart for Fort Dunlop
  • 7.45pm - Presentation
    Fort Dunlop - ideas for the renewal of post industrial heritage
  • 8.30pm - Dinner
    At Fort Dunlop hosted by Urban Splash
  • 10.00pm - Coaches depart

Wednesday 27 June

  • 8.50am - Delegates assemble
  • 9.00am - Presentation
    How to deliver good design  (Download: The English Cities Fund, Lesley Chalmers)
  • 10.00am - Shop for skills
    Delivery skills workshops: finance, land issues, quality control, community and stakeholder involvement, community ownership, project management
  • 11.00am - Refreshments
  • 11.15am - Panel presentation
    How to change your organisation
  • 12.15pm - Reflection and action planning
    How to promote good design in your own work
  • 1.00pm - Lunch
  • 2.45pm - The dragon's den
  • 3.00pm - Summer school ends


Download the 2007 yearbook (4MB).


The summer school is not just about getting your hands dirty with the design process. It's also about inspiration. For this reason, we invite to each summer school some of the most forward-thinking, challenging and exciting thinkers and doers in urban design. Our contributors in 2007 came from Britain and abroad to tell you how they are shaping the world, to share their leading edge thinking and to discuss their work. Our speakers are often challenging, sometimes provocative but always informative and entertaining. These are 2007 key note speakers:

Martha Schwartz

Martha is a landscape architect and artist renowned for her work in urban projects and exploring new design expression in the landscape. Her background is in both fine arts and landscape architecture. She has over 25 years of experience as a landscape architect and artist on a wide variety of projects with a variety of world-renowned architects.

Herbert Dreiseitl

Herbert is a water artist and planner with a worldwide reputation. Since opening an office in 1980 by Lake Constance, he has set new standards with his projects in water design, landscaping, urban hydrology and drainage systems. He brings new insights to the practice of urban design.

John Worthington

Since co-founding DEGW in 1973, John has pioneered methods of adapting urban and space planning techniques to meet the needs of the emerging knowledge economy. Recent assignments include high building strategies for the cities of Rotterdam and Dublin, where he continues to advise both cities on managing the process of innovation and change.

Roger Madelin

Roger has been Chief Executive of Argent Group plc since 1997. Formed in 1981, Argent is one of the UKs leading mixed-use and commercial developers, with many award-winning projects in the UK. Roger is currently developing 26 hectares at Kings Cross, one of central Londons largest developments since the nineteenth century. Argent's projects focus on strong partnerships with public authorities and local communities, good design and place-making.


A range of sponsors helped make the 2007 summer school such a success.

Advantage West Midlands

Summer school website and two bursaries


Dinner in Brindley Place on Monday evening

Ashram Housing Association

Four bursaries


Keynote speaker on sustainability

King Sturge

Keynote speaker and films

Midland Heart housing associations

Joint sponsor of dinner on Sunday evening


Joint sponsor of dinner on Sunday evening

Urban Land Institute, ULI

Joint sponsor of reception and dinner on Monday evening

Urban Splash

Visit and dinner at Fort Dunlop on Tuesday evening