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Sixty Years of Urban Development Education, Training, Research and Consultancy

In 1953 a conference was in University College London on architecture and planning in the tropical developing countries of the South. The deliberations of many widely experienced practitioners at the conference concentrated on the extent to which architectural and planning education in the North (and much of it in the South as well) did not address the climatic and social issues of developing countries. The conference called for the establishment of a training programme to address these issues. In response, in 1954 the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London launched an annual six-month postgraduate course in tropical architecture. For two years this was led by the renowned architect-planner Maxwell Fry before being taken over and developed by Otto Koenigsberger, former Chief Architect to the Indian State of Mysore and Director of Housing of the first independent Government of India. Over the following decade the course, which attracted architects and planners from throughout the developing countries as well as British professionals working in the Commonwealth, developed and changed in response to the rapidly changing scene in the developing towns and cities of the South. The initial emphasis on building physics and climatic design for tropical conditions gave way to the need for new approaches to planning and social development for rapid urbanisation. Technical training was replaced by the education of policy makers, which, in turn, was superseded by concerns for new participatory approaches to the implementation of policy. In recognition of these shifts, the programme changed its name from Tropical Architecture to Tropical Studies, then in 1968 to Development and Tropical Studies. (see Wakely, P., The Development of a School, Habitat International, Vol.7, No.5/6, London 1983).

In 1971 the Department moved from the Architectural Association to University College London (UCL), changing its name to The Development Planning Unit (DPU) and Koenigsberger became the first University of London Professor of Urban Development. Since then the DPU has continued to change and develop in response to the needs of developing country governments, city administrations, civil society organisations and the international community. The DPU Masters Degree programme was started in 1978; a highly successful programme of specialist professional short courses in a range of urban development issues was run throughout the 1980s and early 1990s; the Doctoral Research (PhD) programme took off in the mid 1980s; and the Unit’s applied research and consultancy activities have grown consistently.

Nearly sixty years after opening its doors to the first postgraduate course in 1954, the DPU enjoys a widely respected international reputation as one of the world’s leading research and capacity building institutions in the fields of urban and regional development planning, urban design, the city economy, social development practice, and environment and sustainable development.

Founder of the DPU

Otto Koenigsberger was one of the founders of modern urban development planning in the rapidly growing cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America. He was a polymath, whose contributions ranged from building physics and design in tropical climates to the formulation of self-help policies for the improvement of urban slums; from the planning and building of new towns to the development of national urban policies in the context of rapid growth and change; from advising on professional and technical training to the establishment of university institutions. Above all, he was a teacher. Patrick Wakely, The Guardian, 26 Jan 1999. (Obituary)

60 Years of Urban Development: A Short History of the DPU Booklet

Read (below) or download (pdf) the booklet charting the DPU's history over the past 60 years.

The booklet, was produced to coincide with the DPU's 60th Anniversary celebrations, and is itself an update of one created to celebrate 50 years if the DPU [read more].