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Graduate Certificate in Urban Design

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: We are not accepting applications for the Graduate Certificate in Urban Design for the 2016-17 academic year.  However, we are revising the GCUD curriculum, which should be completed by Spring 2017 and will have information for those who would like to join the program at that time.  Questions and comments should be directed toward professor Naomi Adiv at


Two things about cities, their design and planning, have become abundantly clear in the early 21st century: even at the largest scales, the details matter, and good policy is important, but it's not enough to create a great place. Together, these two lessons of the last 100 years of planning in America have brought new interest and attention to urban design.

What is Urban Design? The term generally means the process for shaping urban growth, conservation and change - making design decisions about individual buildings as well as big plans, about the design of streets as well as collections of buildings. Urban design combines the aesthetic and three-dimensional design skills of the architect with the decision-making and management methodologies of the urban planner.  What excites the urban designer is the making of memorable and artful places - places that are pleasant to be in as well as go through, places that reflect the uniqueness of different communities.

The Graduate Certificate in Urban Design at Portland State University, a joint effort of the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning and the Department of Architecture, has been created to offer planners, designers, and architects the opportunity to engage and incorporate in their own work the principles and methods of urban design. It utilizes the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region as a laboratory, an urban place renowned for its use of urban design and attention to urban design concerns. This certificate is intended for those who are currently seeking an advanced planning or architecture degree, or who are currently employed as a professional planner, architect, or designer.

Course of Study

The Graduate Certificate in Urban Design consists of six required core courses and 2 electives, for a total of at least 27 SCH (course descriptions can be found in the PSU Bulletin).

Core Courses (required):


  • Choose 1: USP 595 Reshaping the Metropolis (3) OR USP 549 Regional Planning and Metropolitan Growth Management (3) OR USP 569 Sustainable Cities and Regions (4)
  • ARCH 532 History and Theory of Urban Design (3)


  • USP 529 Green Buildings 1 (3) NOTE: MARCH candidates only can substitute ARCH 534 Topics In Architectural History and Theory (4) for this requirement
  • ARCH 521 Urban Design Methods (4)


  • USP 575 Urban Design Workshop (4)
  • ARCH 531 Contemporary Urban Design (4)

Elective Courses:

(Choose 2 from the list below or from among other related classes selected in consultation with and the approval of the program coordinator prior to taking the course):

  • USP 513 Introduction to Landscape Architecture (3)
  • USP 523 Real Estate Development (3)
  • USP 524 Site Planning (3)
  • USP 542 Land Use Implementation (3)
  • USP 570 Transportation and Land Use (3)
  • USP 577 Urban Environmental Management (3)

Application and Admission Requirements

Admission to the Graduate Certificate in Urban Design program is limited to graduate students currently enrolled in either the MURP or MARCH programs; graduate students in other programs who have an undergraduate or graduate degree, those who have completed an undergraduate or graduate design degree, or those who have completed a graduate planning degree from an accredited planning degree program.

In addition, admission to graduate study at Portland State University is granted on the basis of evidence of suitable preparation and the probability of success in the intended field of study. Admission requires a minimum of an accredited baccalaureate degree and a GPA which meets university graduate admission standards. Typically, Students admitted to graduate study at Portland State have an undergraduate or graduate (minimum of 12 credit hours) GPA of at least 3.0.

If you meet all of these requirements, please submit your application materials to PSU and to the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning.

If you are currently admitted to a masters or doctoral program at PSU, in good academic standing, and currently registered for classes, use the GO-19 form to request addition of the Graduate Certificate program:

GO-19 Form

For more information, please contact the GCUD coordinator:

Dr. Ethan Seltzer, Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning,, 503-725-5169

Course Overlap Between Degrees and Certificates

Graduate courses can be applied to a master’s (or a doctoral) degree and a graduate certificate. However, graduate courses cannot be applied to two graduate certificates.  See PSU Bulletin for more course overlap information.