Urban metabolisms are under extreme pressure. Urban inequity is on the rise. Design practice, spatial planning and urban studies more generally are in urgent need of renewed approaches, not only to tackle social exclusion, unequal distribution of resources and spatial contradictions, but also to be inspired by the multiple and (trans)cultural expressions of city-making world-wide. The MaHS and MaUSP programmes prepare participants for engagement in complex urban transformations by mastering a unique array of skills to deal with the challenges our world faces today. In the course of their experience, participants will develop a broad palette of proficiencies supporting the emergence of a much-needed critical spatial practitioner. Since space is a non-renewable resource with an agency of its own, insights into the way urbanisation patterns are mapped, co-produced and (re)designed are key competences the programmes will ensure. Participants will enrich their knowledge on how to use the performative capacity of existing human settlements and ecologies as the starting point for innovative and sustainable interplays of urbanisation, landscape and infrastructure.

Foundation of the GGS Degree at KU Leuven
Establishment of the PGCHS
(PostGraduate Centre for Human Settlements)
HABITAT I (Vancouver)
United Nations Training Course in Nairobi (until 1993)
Start of VLIR-UOS sponsorship for MaHS
LA21 collaboration with UN-HABITAT
HABTAT II (Istanbul)
World Urban Forum I (Nairobi)
World Urban Forum II (Barcelona)
World Urban Forum III (Vancouver)
World Urban Forum IV (Nanjing)
World Urban Forum V (Rio de Janeiro)
World Urban Forum VI (Naples)
World Urban Form VII (Medellin)

The advanced Master of Science in Human Settlements (MaHS) is rooted in the experience of the Postgraduate Centre for Human Settlements established in 1978 under the patronage of UN-Habitat. As a 12-month postgraduate specialisation, it proposes to tackle urgent urban development issues by recovering all layers of ecological thinking (social, political, spatial). The MaHS is premised on the crucial relevance of fieldwork and action-learning within the over-arching recognition of space's increasing unavailability. Its curriculum proposes research and design methods that can help overcome the lasting dichotomies in the field of human settlements, such as formal/ informal and tradition/ modernity. This, in turn, helps consolidating the genuine craft of a critically contextualist approach to urban transformation. The programme will consequently equip its participants with a crucial combination of skills to re-articulate both the design and planning professions, leaving room for altruism, activism and an inclusive understanding of how urban environments can be co-produced.


The 4-semester professional Master of Urbanism and Strategic Planning (MaUSP) emerged from the degree in Urbanism and Spatial Planning founded at the KU Leuven in 1962. The MaUSP is grounded in the definition of urbanism as both the science of and action in the city, leading to the exploration of contexts of criticality and radical urban transformation world-wide. By forming reflective practitioners capable of dealing with a range of development conditions, the MaUSP emphasizes the relevance of critical thinking and the urgency to grasp different contexts in a multi-dimensional and trans-scalar way. With a focus varying from shrinking secondary cities to booming megalopolises under pressure, immersive and intensive design studios form the core of the programme. It is here that original strategies building on landscape urbanism and social innovation will be unfolded before becoming part and parcel of the skills mastered by graduates. Overall, the MaUSP enhances independent thinkers who can actively engage in qualitative city-making through design, planning and policy formulation.