The Master of Architecture and Human Settlements (MaHS) and the Master of Urbanism and Strategic Planning (MaUSP) are international postgraduate programs hosted at the Department of Architecture, KU Leuven. Operating at the nexus of advanced research and design, the programs critically address worldwide urban transformation. The MaHS is a highly renowned 12-month programme rooted in inter-disciplinary and inter-cultural design and research. The MaUSP engages for 24 months in immersive urban design, landscape urbanism and urban planning to tackle contemporary urban development and its spatial challenges. Read more

15 February 2018
MaHS MaUSP Applications

Deadline for non-european Applicants is approaching: 1st of March.

11 January 2018
2018-2019 - VLIR Call for applications

It is our pleasure to announce that the VLIR UOS call for applications for the Master in Human Settlements.The deadline for scholarship applications is the 1st of February. Interested applicants from specific VLIR-UOS countries can also apply for scholarships More details are available at

13 November 2017
Alumni publication

Our 2015-2017 Alumni Elena Kasselouri and Gabriella Georgakaki published findings of their thesis in Ground Up: More info at:

27 October 2017
`On worn out landscapes. Mapping wasteland in the Charleroi and Veneto central territories`
25 September 2017
Opening Lecture
29 June 2017
IV World Urbanisms
20 February 2017
Call for non-European Applications!
31 January 2017
Post-Doc researcher for the international Master of Human Settlements (MAHS)
11 November 2016
Bungamati Action Plan at UK Shelter Forum London and ASF Lyon
14 October 2016
MaHS alumni Olga Peek + Nelson Carofilis won 2nd prize at the CIU Habitat competition.
25 May 2016
Call for European Applications!
24 May 2016
The next economy - OSA at IABR
2 February 2016
Map of the Month: Occupying São Paolo
1 February 2016
29 January 2016
In memoriam: Prof. Sandi Siregar
16 January 2016
Launch of Bungamati Rebuilding
7 December 2015
Waste of the City/ The City of Waste
16 October 2015
Dirty Antwerp: BWMSTR Label 2015 to MaUSP research
13 October 2015
CADES Lectures are back
21 September 2015
Opening of the academic year
20 September 2015
MaHS-MaUSP in Nepal
Recent studios
Spring 2018
Guayas River Delta, Ecuador

Kelly Shannon, Bruno De Meulder & Viviana d’Auria

Olga Peek, Nelson Carofilis

Guayaquil – Ecuador’s main port and largest settlement – is a 70% self-built city located amidst the most biodiverse estuarine complex of the South Pacific. The city’s first low-income settlements proliferated in ecological fragile zones, expanding the urban frontier into the estuarine landscape.

The urban fabric and public spaces were crafted incrementally over various decades by more than one generation and through a multitude of design decisions. After living many years on stilts, piecemeal densification and basic service provision radically transformed the appearance of incipient ‘squatter’ living spaces into consolidated settlements – that today accommodate close to 40% of the urban population. The incremental tissue has an ongoing use value for younger generations and fulfilled an important role in absorbing new residential spaces, different neighborhood functions and income-generating opportunities and features a variety of block typologies, intermediate and public spaces.

The city’s rapid urban growth also severely compromised the estuarine landscape and natural floodplains exposing diverse urban communities to a number of water-related problems. In the face of climate change, this issue will only become more critical in the nearby future. Guayaquil recurrently experienced the immediate consequences of environmental hazards and is considered one of the world’s coastal cities at highest risk of damaging floods in relation to climate change.

This design studio aims to contribute to a resilient and sustainable future of Guayaquil’s consolidated riverbank settlements. The project explores the extent and the ways in which the incremental estuarine city can take up new social and environmental challenges through the construction of urban design scenarios. Students will engage in a critical exploration and interpretation of the socio-ecological dimensions of the rapidly changing estuarine living spaces across different scales: from the documentation of transformative urban morphologies and daily practices, to cartographic inquiry into ecological infrastructures combining the urban with assets of water and the natural landscape. They will serve to formulate a projective vision for enhancing the quality of urban habitats, while building resilient ecosystems.

The studio builds further on the design workshop Designing Inclusion (organized in 2015 by KU Leuven in collaboration with the University of Guayaquil and with the support of VLIR-UOS), and an ongoing partnership between the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism in Guayaquil and the ICP programmes at the Department of Architecture, KU Leuven.

Spring 2018
Zambeze River Delta, Mozambique

Bruno De Meulder, Wim Wambecq

The landscape urbanism studio Zambeze aims to investigate a future for the Tete-Moatize conurbation. Tete is the main city on the Zambeze river in Mozambique and the administrative center for the Tete province; Moatize is the center of the coal exploitation. Both urbanizations are growing towards each other flowing into one conurbation that embraces the Zambeze and its tributary Revubue, yet equally embracing the mining sites. The local population, that lives primarily and directly from their land, is most vulnerable to the alterations to the landscape caused by this growth and coal mining.

The Zambeze design studio will explore scenarios that build resilience within the local population and remediate the intrinsic tensions between large-scale development rhetoric and the local population’s subsistence; between the diverging ambitions of the PEOT (Special Territorial Planning document) and the local realities; between the impact of the mining exploration and the population’s dependence of rivers as the Zambeze, Revubue and Nhartanda. The expected growth of the conurbation Tete-Moatize can be seen as a moment to reinvent the urban landscape. Urban growth in Mozambique is often spontaneous, but not unmanageable. Settlements can be expected to appear in locations with good accessibility to basic amenities (water and fertile land, food) and good connectivity (mainly road movement so they can sell whatever surplus they produce). The landscape - with the Zambeze as its spearpoint - forms the inevitable base for this new urban realm.

The studio forms part of a series of workshops organized in the context of the South Initiative (with the support of VLIR-UOS), in collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering and Technology and the Faculty of Environmental Engineering and Natural Resources of the University of the Zambeze (UniZambeze) and in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture of the University Eduardo Mondlane.

Spring 2018
Yangtze River Delta, China

Kelly Shannon, Bruno De Meulder, Viviana d’Auria

Stefanie Dens, Christian Nolf

China is presently one of the most aggressive countries in the world with regards to policies that are tackling climate change. At the same time, there are a plethora of ancient treatises and indigenous methods that can serve as inspiration for contemporary climate adaptation and flood management. The studio will develop a collective vision of the Yangtze (Chang Jiang in Chinese) River Delta for the near and long-term futures and thereafter individual projects, across a transect of the delta (and across scales), will be developed to strengthen the vision and more specifically create soft infrastructure strategies to respond to sea level rise and storm surge, the relation of the urban and the rural, hybrid morphologies and typologies of housing, social and private buildings in relation to productive landscapes.

Spring 2018
Climate Change & Contemporary Landscape Urbanism Strategies

Climate change poses one of the greatest threats to humankind’s future. Bold policy and political will must be matched by the precise understanding of science and creative and out-of-the-box alternatives to its future habitation. Urbanism organizes civilization according to man-made rules and the use of space, yet it is anchored to natural world, which the environmental sciences strive to unravel. In the KU Leuven spring of 2018, three studios, on three continents will focus on design responses to climate change, including water and forest urbanisms and the development of new morphologies and typologies to create new relationships between nature and culture, water/

agriculture /forests and cities, the unbuilt and the built and public and private realms. The studios will all work in one studio space, follow a common process, have joint workshops and reviews and culminate in the June/ July World Urbanisms Seminar.

Urbanized deltas—which host more than half of the world’s population and produce the lion’s share of global economic value—are amongst the earth’s most inherently vulnerable territories with regards to climate change and man has yet to figure out how to appropriately respond to the predicted consequences of increased vulnerability, which includes storm surges, sea level rise, both increased flooding and drought, and extreme rainfall. The hazard-prone areas threaten water and food security, human settlement and transport. Clearly the stakes, in terms of human and financial capital, are extremely high and need urgent attention. Design attention and creative thinking is thus part of the necessary ‘game-changers’ that must figure into a paradigm shift for such deltaic landscapes.

Spring 2017
Reviving territories of hydraulic civilization
Design explorations in the Jiangnan transect of the Yangtze River Delta

China has undergone major ‘catch up’ development at an exponential growth rate in the last few decades. This has come with major environmental degradation, with perhaps the most pressing challenge being water supply, as watershed volumes shrink and flood risks increase. Two-thirds of Chinese cities lack water – more than half of China’s surface water and its cities' underground water supplies are polluted. A third of China’s population faces the threat of drinking contaminated water. In the last 50 years, half of its wetlands have disappeared, and its underground water table is increasingly decreasing.

The green heart of the Yangtze River Delta is composed of a fine-grained mix of fishponds and polders, that interweave linear settlements and small industries, contrasting with the rigidly zoned towns and generic cities that were developed in the last few decades. This top-down urbanization contrasts with heritage values that were sensitive to water systems and their ecological and functional roles. Recently, an ‘East-West Ecological Wetland and Water-village Corridor’ has been proposed with the aim to conserve the described water landscape. This studio will investigate how new development pressure in this corridor can be accommodated for while still preserving the distinct qualities of the area. The role of water in the YRD is evident. Hence, how can water and ecological systems be taken into account while continuing to accommodate the most dynamic development ever encountered in the region?

Spring 2017
Tamanduateí River Basin
Water Urbanisms explorations

São Paulo´s original settlement laid beside Tamanduateí River’s banks. With the construction of the first railway network, this floodplain became one of the first axes for the city´s development, which explains the high concentration of listed heritage along the river bank and the railway axis. In the recent years, in order to re-qualify its former industrial floodplains, the municipality conceived redevelopment programs, the most recent called Urban Operation “Bairros do Tamanduateí” (Tamanduateí neighborhood).
Taking advantage of the discussions generated by these redevelopment plans, this studio proposes to envision alternative urban design scenarios, giving a wider role to the river in the floodplain´s redevelopment.
The design proposals address the complexity and conflicts represented by the superposition of infrastructure; floods and water management (river, rain and sewage waters); listed buildings and industrial heritage; productive industrial area; the need for housing and new housing typologies; the existence of informal areas; and the site´s current decay.
Differently from the ongoing municipality´s propositions - Urban Operation Bairros do Tamanduateí - this exercise attempts to focus on the river, the potentials of the floodplain, searching for a reconciliation, between waterscapes and city spaces.

The urban design explorations aim to answer the following research question:
How water urbanism and urban design strategies would be able to shift the eastern part of São Paulo, currently shaped by infrastructure?