Urban Environments Design (MDes)


The Master of Design (Urban Environments Design) draws on the contemporary Hong Kong/China urban experience to offer a unique postgraduate education in urban space design. In line with the School’s human-centered critical approach to environment design, this studio-based specialism integrates the design of multiple scales and typologies of urban environments. Urban Environments Design focuses on the analysis and design of hybrid and composite interior environments, urban public spaces and urban systems and strategies.

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  • Application Timeline - Sep 2018 Entry
  • Applications start: 26 Sep 2017
  • First Round Review deadline: 12 Dec 2017
  • Application deadline: 30 Apr 2018
  • Late application deadline: 31 May 2018

    Anyone who is interested to be considered, please inform us about your intent to submit a late application with your updated CV before 23 May. Upon faculty's approval, you will have 5 working days at most to submit a complete application with all required documents. 


This full-time international postgraduate programme responds to the unprecedented urban transformations occurring during the past few decades in Hong Kong and China. Urban Environments Design aims at the development of a high level of intellectual and practical mastery of the analysis and design of diverse urban environments in the region, with broader implications for urban contexts worldwide. The approach of the Urban Environments Design is based on an understanding of socio-cultural dynamics of the regional context transferred into new design strategies and design interventions.

See also: Employers of MDes graduates


This specialism seeks to unite practical approaches for innovation in urban strategies with formal aspects of urban environment design, through:

  • real-world project development
  • teamwork approaches to problem-solving
  • socio-cultural and aesthetic considerations
  • reflecting critically and analytically on the urban environment value creation by design within the urban environment
  • a critical understanding of contemporary urban transformations in China
  • definition of strategic approaches to urban environment design

Learn more about: International academic collaborations

Programme structure

Following an introductory seminar, which initiates students in the Urban Environments ethos and approach, the first year of the programme is structured around three half-semester studio subjects, each of which is paired with a seminar subject that pro- vides a knowledge base for the respective studio. Each project is undertaken in collaboration with a public- or private-sector partner, addressing spatial design challenges that emerge from the partner’s real-world operations and institutional culture. The final semester centers on a student-defined capstone design project that synthesises the learning of the programme.

Common Core Subject (compulsory) (1 credits)
SD5400 Vision and Change (1 credit)

Specialism Core Subjects (compulsory)
Theory/Method Subjects (8 credits)
SD5701 Urban Ecology (2 credits)
SD5702 The City from Inside (2 credits)
SD5704 Public Realms (2 credits)
SD5706 Strategic Approaches to the City (2 credits)

Workshop Subjects (12 credits)
SD5703 Urban Interior Environment (4 credits)
SD5705 Urban Public Space Design (4 credits)
SD5707 Urban Systems and Strategies (4 credits)

Capstone Subjects (9 credits)
SD5708 Capstone Research (3 credits)
SD5709 Capstone Project (6 credits)

Elective Subjects* (6 credits)
2 Electives from pool of shared MDes electives (3+3)

* Remarks: Not all elective subjects are offered every year. Time table will be provided by individual MDes Specialism before the academic year begins. Students should refer to MDes Scheme Definitive Scheme Document and may consult Specialism Leader when choosing electives.

Class delivery mode & duration

Seminars and workshops are normally held during the daytime on weekdays. Electives will be delivered during weekends. Each of the weekend subjects requires three weekends spread over 4–5 weeks. It normally takes 1.5 years to complete the specialism.

Specialism leaders

Prof Tim Jachna — Professor, PhD, AADip, BArch

Prof Tim Jachna

Timothy Jachna earned a Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1988. He worked in Greece as a researcher into urban design strategies for contemporary interventions into classical Greek cities, then was employed for three years as a Project Manager at the architecture firm of Hartshorne + Plunkard in Chicago. He pursued further studies at the Architectural Association in London, where he received an AA Diploma (Masters equivalent) in 1993. After brief stints working at an architectural publisher and leading an architectural model-building studio, he moved to Berlin, Germany. There, he was a planner on the team designing the new Wasserstadt district of Berlin before moving to LANG- HOF® Architecture and Urban Design, eventually becoming Design Director of the firm. In 2002, he moved from Berlin to Hong Kong, and from professional practice into academia, to take up a teaching position at the School of Design. He obtained a PhD from the Spatial Information Architecture Lab (SIAL) of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia.

Prof Laurent Gutierrez — Professor, PhD, MArch, BArch, PgD, BT, BTS

Prof Laurent Gutierrez

Laurent Gutierrez is an Associate Professor at the School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University where he leads the Environment and Interior Design discipline and the Strategic Design (MDes) as well as Innovation Design Management (IDM/MBA). He is also the co-leader of Urban Environments Design Lab. He is currently doing a PhD on the “Processes of Modernization and Urbanization in China focusing on the Pearl River Delta region”. His research areas include Strategic Planning, Urban Environment, Relationship between Design, Art and Politics in Asia.

Teaching staff

Recent collaboration partners


Entrance requirement

A Bachelor’s degree in a spatial design field or the equivalent in a related discipline (e.g. interior design, environment design, landscape design, architecture, urban design) is required. Candidates with other tertiary qualifications complemented with substantial relevant professional experience will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

A complete application includes

  • Application form
  • Letter of intent
  • Three letters of recommendation (Academic/ Profession)
  • Evidence of academic qualification, i.e. Official Full Transcripts and Degree Certificates 
  • Portfolio (refer to FAQ for requirements and submission)
  • IELTS/ TOEFL report*

* If you are not a native speaker of English, and your Bachelor's degree or equivalent qualification is awarded by institutions where the medium of instruction is not English, you are expected to fulfil the following minimum English language requirement for admission purpose: A Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of 80 for the Internet-based test or 550 for the paper-based test; OR An overall Band Score of at least 6 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

All admissions must go through the interview process. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend an interview in person (for local applicants) or over internet video calls (for non-local applicants). 

  • Number of credits: 36

  • Normal Period of Study: 1.5 Years (full-time)

  • Tuition: HK$144,000 (local) / HK$158,400 (non-local); Initial Programme Fee: Local student HK$16,000 (4 credits x HK$4,000)/ Non-local student HK$44,000 (10 credits x HK$4,400)

Financial Aid

No scholarship is available for non-local students for 2018/19 admissions.

For local residents, two types of financial aid are available through the Government's Student Finance Office: (1) Continuing Education Fund and (2) Extended Non-means-Tested Loan Scheme (ENLS)

Some subjects in MDes scheme are included on the Continuing Education Fund (CEF) list of reimbursable courses for local residents. For further information on CEF or reimbursable courses list, please visit CEF official website

Extended Non-means Tested Loan Scheme (ENLS) offers interest-bearing loans to eligible students for covering tuition fees. For details of the scheme, please refer to the Government’s website.

Type of VISA (for International Students)

People’s Republic of China and foreign nationals may join the full-time programme provided either they apply for and receive a Student VISA; or they may join the part-time programme if they are holding a valid work permit or dependent VISA from the Hong Kong Administrative Region Immigration Department. School of Design will provide assistance in this regard.

MDes Talks: Student Blog

MDes Talks is a series of Student Blogs contributed by students in different specialisms under the Master of Design Scheme. It is set out to share students’ first-hand experience in the d-school pedagogy, their projects, takeaways, and student life in general.


Should you require further assistance, feel free to contact us by email at sdsteph@polyu.edu.hk or by phone +852 3400 3440.

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