PhD Opportunity: sustainable urban, suburban, and rural densities

University of Dundee

Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Binks Institute for Sustainability: Practical and theoretical approach to sustainable urban, suburban, and rural densities.

University of Dundee 

Supervisors:  Dr Lorens Holm, Dr Husam AlWaer

Deadline: Tuesday, April 30, 2024


About the Project

The aim of this research is to develop prototypes for the city edge, comprising new high density communities that create more housing and more greenbelt at the city edge. These communities will have city centre densities of housing, and city centre intensities of occupation, with city centre proximities to amenities including green space, social and health facilities, shopping, and access to public transport and active travel. We are particularly interested in prototypes for non-tower, urban street front solutions, to density.

We are looking for a recent graduate or early career architect from an architecture and/or a spatial planning background who is interested in developing speculative city edge proposals within a rigorous design research framework. We expect this work to include detailed plan studies of the city edge with indicative new housing settlement typologies. The successful candidate should have a strong design background, be able to work at the scale of the room and the scale of the city, and be willing to address the theoretic concerns of the humanities within the pragmatic frame of planning policy priorities. The work will entail mapping existing buildings, spaces, and infrastructure networks, using architectural visualisation and data collection. It may also include analysis of historic gridded towns and networks of towns, with a view to developing new approaches to density, proximity, and intensity of occupation. Areas of focus will probably include areas of growth at city edges including Dundee north of the Kingsway, the western expansion of Aberdeen, the Glasgow – Edinburgh central belt, although prior knowledge of these areas is not necessary.


To develop new pedestrian-focused city edge development prototypes that meet the demand for sustainable living, and meet Scotland’s SDG targets to zero carbon. To develop collaboration templates for practitioners in planning, architecture, and the humanities.


The Architectural discourse on the city periphery and city sprawl.

Concepts of the good life drawn from the history of human thought.

Scottish urban and rural landscapes.

National and Scottish Planning Policy and Practice.


How can we grow cities at their edges?

What does the good life look like, if it is to be sustainable?

What are the necessary formal, spatial, and social conditions?

What are the necessary networks of integrated assets, amenities, facilities, shopping, public transport, and parkland?


Design of prototype city edge conditions, informed by the humanities, data and planning priorities.


This work will change the way we design for the city edge, with impacts on design thinking and strategies, and planning policy and practice. It will impact positively on our capacity to live within the constraints imposed upon our lifestyles by Scotland’s SDG targets.


New design prototypes and practice guidelines for the growth of Scottish cities, correlating density with intensity of occupation and proximity, at the city edge.

These prototypes will form part of a briefing policy document that will be shared with local authorities and presented at Scottish Parliament.


There are questions about the positive social health benefits of density and about the positive effects of density upon agriculture and biodiversity that have not yet been explored through design proposals that visualise social life adjacent to the green belt.

This proposal is timely because the Scottish government – cf. National Planning Framework no. 4 (NPF4) – is currently debating the appropriate level of compactness for existing and new Scottish settlements and towns.

This PhD proposal is a joint project between the architecture design research and planning research programmes at the University of Dundee.

This proposal aims to create a space for collaboration between two discourses which work on the same environmental urgencies but rarely speak to each other.

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Lorens Holm, School of Art and Design,

For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

Our research community thrives on the diversity of students and staff which helps to make the University of Dundee a UK university of choice for postgraduate research. We welcome applications from all talented individuals and are committed to widening access to those who have the ability and potential to benefit from higher education.


Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent for non-UK qualifications), and/or a Masters degree in a relevant discipline. For international qualifications, please see equivalent entry requirements here:

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) overall score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in reading, listening, speaking and 6.5 in writing). The University of Dundee accepts a variety of equivalent qualifications and alternative ways to demonstrate language proficiency; please see full details of the University’s English language requirements here: 



Step 1: Email Lorens Holm, School of Art and Design, to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with Dr Holm, formal applications can be made via our direct application system. When applying, please follow the instructions below:

Candidates must apply for the Doctor of Philosophy PhD in Urban Planning (3 Year) using our direct application system:

Please select the study mode (full-time/part-time) and start date agreed with the lead supervisor.

In the Research Proposal section, please:

-   Enter the lead supervisor’s name in the ‘proposed supervisor’ box

-   Enter the project title listed at the top of this page in the ‘proposed project title’ box

In the ‘personal statement’ section, please outline your suitability for the project selected.

Closing Date
Tuesday 30 April 2024