About this online course


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Course video

Learn about today's urban challenges focusing on developing countries, referred to as the Global South. We will debate the benefits associated with three different themes, going beyond traditional urban strategies and policies:

1. Spatial justice

Having fair, inclusive and healthy urban contexts is one of the greatest challenges of cities in emerging economies.

2. Housing Provision and Management

Increasing demand in the Global South calls for alternative approaches in housing provision and management.

3. Urban Resilience

Understanding resilience not as a mere struggle for survival, but as an opportunity to build better urban environments.

In the course, we will address questions such as:

  • Is the 'just city' framework applicable to cities with extreme socio-economic inequality?
  • Can community-led housing initiatives provide effective solutions for households in need?
  • How can resilience support development instead of perpetuating a disadvantaged condition?

In this architecture and urban planning course, academic urban planning expertise from TU Delft is used to formulate possible answers to these questions, and is applied in a range of challenging case studies from Ghana, Brazil, Malaysia, Chile, Ethiopia, and China, among others. This course offers you a new perspective to understand and analyse the urban challenges of the Global South.

Through a combination of short theoretical lessons, presentation of case studies, testimonies from practitioners and practical assignments you will also learn how to develop a critical perspective about your own urban environment and how to translate this knowledge into analytical tools and innovative urban solutions.

Urban Challenges in the MENA region and African countries

In addition, the course offers you two modules focused on the specific urban challenges of the MENA region and African countries. We will apply the three themes to different cases in these regions and explore these with academics and professionals working on the ground.

What you'll learn

  • Alternative theories in spatial justice, housing provision and management, and urban resilience.
  • Application of analytical tools and innovative solutions to contemporary urban challenges
  • Develop a critical perspective about your own urban environment.
  • New perspectives to understand and analyse the urban challenges of the Global South.

AESOP Excellence in Teaching Award 2017

At the annual conference of AESOP (Association of European Schools of Planning) the Architecture MOOC "Rethink the City: New approaches to Global and Local Urban Challenges" received the Excellence in Teaching Award 2017.

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The course is structured as follows:

Week 1: Welcome and Opening
This week is devoted to introducing the course and getting to know each other. This week also contains the first assignment of the course which aims to introduce yourself and the urban challenge in your own context.

Week 2 to 5: Parallel Modules

During these weeks you can choose in which order to take the modules, but there is a fixed sequence of activities inside each module, consisting of lecture videos, quizzes and assignments. In order to keep an appropriate workload, the course team suggests to take one module per week.
Module - Spatial Justice
This module will analyse concrete cases of spatial justice and injustice in emerging economies and discuss how contemporary theories apply in the booming metropolises of the Global South.

Module - Housing Provision and Management
This module will discuss the role of the State, the society and the private sector in housing policies, exploring opportunities for ownership and rental models in different contexts.

Module - Urban Resilience
This module will introduce the topic of urban resilience and shed some light on case studies of resilience and risk management that apply alternative approaches to the topic.

Module – Arabic Cities
This module has the purpose to discuss and analyse the urban challenges identified in the previous modules in some selected Arabic cities through the combination of theoretical lectures, case studies and practitioners' interviews.

Module – Africa
This module discusses and analyses the urban challenges identified in the previous modules focusing on African countries through the combination of theoretical lectures, case studies and practitioners' interviews.

Week 6 and 7: Final Assignment and closure
The final assignment is meant for you to develop a critical stance towards the urban challenges in your own context, using the theories and tools presented during the course. You will have one full week to prepare your final assignment.

Hot Topics: in these weeks you will also have access to additional videos that discuss hot topics in both the Global South and the urban development discourse. These will complement the content of the modules. They are completely optional and they have quizzes or any required practical assignment. However, the "Reading the City" video can help you structure the poster for your final assignment; therefore, we strongly recommend you to watch it.


Unless otherwise specified, the Course Materials of this course are Copyright Delft University of Technology and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


This is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that runs on edX.


This course is designed for undergraduate and master's level students of architecture, urban planning and disciplines related to urban themes. Nevertheless, anyone interested in debating spatial justice, urban resilience, and housing provision and management are welcome.

No previous knowledge in urban planning or the Global South is required, just your eagerness to learn!

  • Starts: Anytime (Self-Paced)
  • Free
  • Length: Self-Paced
  • Effort: 3 - 4 hours per week / 7 weeks

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