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.

  • Application Timeline - Sep 2019 Entry
  • Applications start: 27 Sep 2018
  • First Round Review deadline: 14 Dec 2018
  • Application deadline: 30 Apr 2019
  • Late application deadline: 31 May 2019

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

Prof Laurent Gutierrez

Laurent Gutierrez is a Professor at the School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University where he leads the Environment and Interior Design discipline and the Design Strategies (MDes) as well as Innovation Design Management (IDM/MBA). He is also the specialism leader of Urban Environments Design Lab. His PhD is 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.

Melissa Cate Christ — Research Assistant Professor, BLA, MLA

Melissa Cate Christ

Melissa Cate Christ is a Research Assistant Professor at PolyU School of Design, a registered landscape architect (Ontario, Canada), and the founding director of a design research practice which explores mechanisms of critical intervention at the juncture of landscape, culture, urbanism, infrastructure, and social and environmental justice. A selection of her recent work can be found at transversestudio.com.

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$162,000 (local) / HK$183,600 (non-local); Initial Programme Fee: Local student HK$18,000 (4 credits x HK$4,500)/ Non-local student HK$51,000 (10 credits x HK$5,100)

Financial Aid

No scholarship is available for non-local students for 2019/20 admissions.

A couple of post-entry scholarships# (in value around HK$30,000) may be available for HK students studying in our full-time programmes. These scholarships are normally awarded on academic merit and other selection criteria specified by the donors.

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.

# PolyU reserves the right to change or withdraw scholarships at anytime. In case of any dispute/ disagreement, PolyU's decision is final.

Type of VISA (for International Students)

People’s Republic of China and foreign nationals, and those who are holding a valid employment or working holiday visa/ entry permit may apply to this programme as non-locals. You will need a student visa to take this full-time programme.

Holders of dependant visa or a visa under IANG are also considered as non-locals but do not require a student visa.

Applicants will be informed by the University’s Academic Secretariat about the visa application process when receiving the Notice of Offer.

Visa applications are processed and determined by the Immigration Department of the Government of the HK SAR. The process normally takes 8 - 10 weeks upon receipt of all the required documents.

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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