“The growth of cities and the urbanization of the world is one of the most impressive facts of modern times.”

– Louis Wirth (1938) Urbanism as a Way of Life –

PLAN 509 Urbanism as a Global Way of Life was first launched in 2015/16 (co-taught by Profs. Tom Hutton and Michael Leaf) as a core course of SCARP’s accredited Master of Community and Regional Planning program. This core course seeks to fulfill the following three knowledge components, as required for program accreditation by the Professional Standards Board (Canada) and Planning Accreditation Board (USA):

a) Human Settlements – Forms, scales, and settings of human settlements; processes and factors of change in human settlements.

b) Global Dimensions of Planning – Interactions, flows of people and materials, cultures, and differing approaches to planning across world regions.

c) Growth and Development  – Economic, infrastructure, social, and cultural factors in urban and regional growth and change.

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For the fifth run of PLAN 509 in 2019/20, I aim to re-animate the course syllabus and pedagogy with a turn towards: (1) elucidating the interconnectivities between cities and its implications for planning; (2) unpacking insightful case studies of urban transformation and transition from multiple world regions; and (3) interrogating the positionality of the planner in a globalizing world. Please click here for further details, or view the “Course Syllabus” tab in the menu bar above.


The content of this core course is shaped by the following questions:

  • How is the ‘urban’ a distinctive mode of life? And why is the urban mode of life becoming more and more prevalent?
  • What are the emerging developmental models of urbanization and how are these models, in turn, effecting transitional shifts/changes to urbanism in our contemporary time?
  • How are interconnectivities between cities implicating the field (and practice) of planning — locally and globally?


Upon successful completion of this core course, students should be able to:

  • Understand basic concepts of urban theory, particularly historical and contemporary interpretations of the city and the nature of urban life.
  • Understand the interplay between globalization and urbanization, and apply this knowledge towards analyzing the implications for society and the planning profession.
  • Evaluate new notions of urban life and new approaches to planning practice, with emphasis on cities across multiple world regions.
  • Create an original document in the form of a professional report which: (1) illuminates an urban challenge of global significance, and (2) presents unique case studies with substantive lessons and future directions for planning, i.e. “best practices” [note: this term is used critically, given the biases and subjectivities in how ‘problems’ are seen and what ‘solutions’ might be considered relevant].