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Urban Design, Sustainability and Conservation

"The cities of the 21st century are where human destiny will be played out, and where the future of the biosphere will be determined." - Herbert Girardet


An evident shift is taking place in the fields pertaining to study of settlements especially in the Global South. It is the complex lived realities of people, their socio-cultural relationship with the landscape and the varied governing systems (state-driven or cultural-driven) that provide an opportunity to learn from and inform current spatial design, planning and management practices. A vision to generate an alternative practice informed by creative methods & experimental approaches is at heart of this program.

A UNESCO Chair Signature Program
This is a signature program in Planning offered by the UNESCO Chair in Culture, Habitat and Sustainable Development at Srishti. It shares the vision of the chair - ‘to conceive and engage with innovative, inclusive and sustainable strategies to strengthen the interconnections between creative practices, community development and cultural landscape.’

UNESCO Chair at Srishti recognizes that ‘Cultural plurality’ is a mainstay quality of settlements in India and the Global South. It has identified focus regions and the settlements situated within these regions, as ‘Living Labs’. The learning environment extends into these ‘Living Labs’ by opening the collaborative networks, communities and on-going projects of the Chair to enhance the learning experience for the students.

Field practice to understand embedded cultural landscapes of Karez system in Naubad with Team YUVAA, our collaborator in Deccan Living Labs, Bidar . Source - Shreyas Srivatsa.

Urban Design, Sustainability and Conservation is an innovative, trans-disciplinary post-graduate course that blends current research and practices from the fields of Human Geography, Cultural Anthropology, Critical Heritage Studies, Development Planning & Design, Urbanism and other fields from the Social Sciences. It offers a generative learning environment to students through place-based studios, trans-disciplinary projects, and ongoing community-engaged collaborative projects at Srishti. It will prepare the students to build an alternative research, planning and design praxis gained from an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary orientation.

Key Values

The course is designed to support and encourage students to imbibe values and worldviews through an inquiry-led learning

  • Co-create
  • Experiment
  • Speculate
  • Adapt

The river island of Srirangapatna as a place-based context to critically examine the idea of boundaries of a landscape shaped by its inhabitants, both human and non-human. Source - Ishita Shah.

Course Structure

  1. Studios encourage active, contextual learning where students develop core disciplinary skills and knowledge. Studios facilitate collaborative and creative design solutions to complex, open-ended problems
  2. Workshops provide intense learning experiences in making and doing, across the different disciplines.
  3. Internship with an industry or a design studio is compulsory for students at the end of 1st year
  4. Self Initiated Project is an end of the semester challenge that allows the student to engage in research / enquiry or design based projects. Students begin by writing their project proposal and defining the scope of their project and they are mentored by faculty / design professionals.
  5. Electives are liberal arts courses aimed to cultivate intellectual and reflective abilities in students and motivate them to probe deeper and approach their design process in a holistic manner.
  6. Capstone Project is the culmination of the research, capabilities and knowledge gained over the last three semesters. Students are required to submit their design output and a mandated thesis document. Students are mentored during this final project and go through seminars to get feedback from faculty and peer groups

Interactions with local experts in WCFA, Mysore to understand ways of seeing and studying complexities of a settlement through lenses of Historicity, Urbanism and Place-making. Source - Manan Goel.

Learning Approach

The course will review the current methods and theories of planning and policy-making to enable students to examine, evaluate and generate innovative methods. The students will critically appreciate the need and an opportunity to understand settlements through a grounded approach, learning from inhabitants and their everyday practices from both historic perspective and in its present evolutionary state.

Samad Bharati, a local historian talking about medieval history of Bidar transforming the fort into a classroom Source - Siva Sanjeet.

The course in Urban Design, Sustainability and Conservation lays emphasis on place-based learning led by the inquiries -

  • How can the cultural understanding of a place and its history be integrated with development processes and policies?
  • How can one introduce more humanistic and sensitive concepts of development in creating a sustainable settlement?
  • How can art and design practices act as a catalyst and mediator to sense, shape and shift developmental paradigms?
  • The emphasis is on generating insights from methodological experimentation to appreciate plural perspectives embedded in these settlements to inform policies and actions. The aim is to provide and generate a learning environment for students to appreciate the regional networks, experiment through inquiry-led locative practice and recognize the global implications.


On successful completion of the course, graduates will have a specialization in urban design and planning that is culturally and environmentally sustainable, Further students would acquire the following capabilities:

Knowledge and Understanding:

  • Conceptual clarity around the inter-relation between emergence of a settlement and everyday  practices
  • An understanding of the approaches to evaluate the implications of policies and systems governing human settlements

Communication Skills:

  • Familiarity with professional writing such as grants proposals and reports
  • Spatial representation and analytical methods and approaches
  • Specific skills related to understand the cultural landscape of a place or region such as inventorying, mapping, and community study

Practitioner Skills:

  • Understanding of how to experiment with design and plan places at different spatial  scale using everyday practices.
  • Ability to plan and design in a participatory manner, as part of a multidisciplinary group and with local community.

Faculty and students working with indigenous communities in Wayanad to critique and reframe SDGs from a local context. Source - Falguni Gupta.


This course provides an opportunity for students interested in pursuing careers in Non-governmental Organisations, Advocacy firms & Institutions, Research organisations, Academic Institutions and Practice-based studios at the helm of re-envisioning transformational aspects of settlements, both Urban & Rural and everything in-between.


For more information about this program, kindly email Shweta Srivastav at
or Shreyas Srivatsa at

Disciplinary Intersections

The program in Urban Design, Sustainability, and Conservation is informed by the following learning disciplines:

Research and Collaboration

Students have opportunities to work within the academic structures and/or work across the following centers and labs:


View Eligibility for Admission, Fee Schedule, Application Form & Other information for this Program >>