Someone please educate me on wtf an "urbanist" is.


So this is a term that I have seen tossed around academia for the past number of years, and usually by professors not competent enough to take or pass the AREs.  

Is "urbanist" another cute title professors need to tag on their CVs along with "artist" and "architect" (despite being unlicensed)? Anyhow, how does one go about becoming one and the requirements for it?

Aug 3, 18 1:48 pm

I think the title comes with the trust fund.

Aug 3, 18 2:02 pm

Urbanist officially is a shortened form of urban specialist which would imply education and credibility in urban planning / city planning and similar related work.

These so called trust fund wannabes aren't even worthy of a title other than shithead. Unless they actually have an education in urban studies or related education that covered subject matters of city/urban life, planning, etc. They also should have lived and experienced first hand city life on different scales. I lived in big, medium and small cities/towns.


It's what you call someone who likes to talk about cities (preferably densifying them, generally in opposition to 'NIMBY's) but who has no actual credentials other than some combination of blogging and occasionally showing up at a city hall meetings and/or protests. Frequently is "independently wealthy". 

Aug 3, 18 2:20 pm

A dilettante.


Funny enough, the shortlist of professors I have in mind all have blogs where they bitch and moan about every metropolitan city they encounter. Not exactly Earth shattering ideas here, nor the second coming of Jane Jacobs in their writings.


an overrated landscaper

Aug 3, 18 2:54 pm

urbanist noun 1. a self-titled hipster academic 2. an architectural professor lacking professional experience and practical knowledge 3. adj. overly versed in jargon and theory

Aug 3, 18 3:20 pm

urbanist noun 1. a self-titled hipster academic 2. an architectural professor lacking professional experience and practical knowledge 3. adj. overly versed in jargon and theory. 4. truth misused title by shitheads that are often trust fund beneficiaries who think they are better than everyone else but are full of shit.


I should have remembered.... the latte and the mystery 'cream".

urbanist noun 1. a self-titled hipster academic 2. an architectural professor lacking professional experience and practical knowledge 3. adj. overly versed in jargon and theory. 4. truth misused title by shitheads that are often trust fund beneficiaries who think they are better than everyone else but are full of shit and latte and topped off with white mystery creamy stuff in the mouth.


Urbanist officially means a specialist in city planning. They would be an urban specialist. This means they are suppose to have credentials (be it formal education such as urban studies and urban planning). It was short of Urban Specialist. (URBAN special-IST)

Urbanist is what you call a person who graduated with a degree in urban planning, urban studies, city planning / civic planning, and similar degrees but they are not called City Planners because they are not employed by a City. You aren't suppose to use the title city planner unless you are employed to work as one by a city. Although it is not quite a protected title. 

HOWEVER, the title urbanist has been misused by trust fund idiot babies who happens to have spend time in the big city and are infactuated with the big city life. They may have lived in a big city but they may have never actually lived in the urban environment and usually they didn't. They may have had a day job but they didn't live city life both day and night because if they had, they probably wouldn't be quite so pushing of the 'Big City" life in small towns that aren't interested in becoming street gangs infested cess pool at night. They are happy to have a quiet life. They are happy to go to bed at 8PM to 9PM and wake up at 4AM to 6AM.

Urbanist is now a misused title because a lot of self-proclaimed trust fund babies call themselves urban experts.... an urbanist... all because they had a few happy moment sipping on a star bucks coffee at city urban square listening to a street band playing. 

I'm no expert but I lived in one of the largest urban metropolitan area in the United States for more than a decade and seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of big cities. (Actually, where I lived was a conglomeration of cities that formed a large metropolitan area so it was all 'urban' compared to a small town.) Where I lived was a 'suburban' neighborhood but the nature of the area, you just can't avoid the "urban" areas. 

While my studies in geography (which is one of the degrees that can lead into jobs in city planning), and architectural studies, as well as having lived some time of my life in the big cities would have more credibility than some of the so called "urbanists".

Aug 3, 18 3:39 pm

Euphemism for people who hate any place where they can't get a slurpee within 1 minute.

Aug 3, 18 3:41 pm



Seems like urbanists would consider a slurpee to be strictly declasse. Some gross kind of third world food would be more like it.


Oh yeah like Doro wot.


Dunno, but they have a website '' where you can send money and everything. Based in Seattle. Something to do with lattes and being trendier than thou.

Aug 3, 18 3:55 pm

I assume it is run and organized by profs who have nothing better to do outside of studio classes .


Seattle had an independently wealthy 'urbanist' run for mayor last year. I think we may be exporting them now..


Bunch of amateurs here, it's obviously called archinect here and not urbanect...let me help you out here. An urbanist or Urbanist, well you know why, is a supporter of pope Urban VI. How quickly people forget, "pope" Clement VII ring any bells? Jeez...very disappointed.

Aug 4, 18 3:51 am

The current Pope is Urban the Meyer I. Like fondling little kids with the earlier Popes, excusing wife-beating is quite OK.

Aug 4, 18 8:30 am

Go Buckeyes!

When I see "urbanist" I think of someone who holds a set of views that include being a proponent of density, transit, diversity, public space, and design that goes beyond object to include variable context.

Aug 4, 18 11:18 am

Well put, Donna! On the flip side, this is a skill set that I believe every architect worth their salt already has. In my fourth year (of five) of school, the entire year was devoted to the urban context, and likewise, my ARE exams were filled to the brim with urban concept questions (historical, New Urbanism, zoning, etc.). I don't understand where academics suddenly have a stranglehold on the term and flaunt it like a weapon.


Nobody forbids you to also call yourself an urbanist...and if enough join you the term will devalue even further and people will have to call themselves "theorist" or something...

Urbanist is what the folks advocating for livable cities, some may go further and ask for greater density and less dependence on cars. Urbanist are unified in their dislike of the suburban sprawl mode of development.


All true but the reason they have to call themselves 'urbanists' is they have no actual credentials beyond those beliefs. What's irritating about the name is that it makes them sound like they have some actual training or expertise when they really don't... all their expertise is based on arguing with others in public.


I’ve never seen anyone use “urbanist” in place of credentials, but more as a descriptor of their interests. Like Donna and Peter said, they’re united by a set of views and opinions, not by a particular skill set or education. @starrchicect, many people who had the same education as you may have come out of it with a thorough understanding of urban concepts, but not necessarily identify with a strong interest in those issues.


I have most definitely seen 'urbanist' used as some kind of implied credential..

This is how I've seen the term used as well - indicative of someone that wants more density, less parking, better ped design, etc. I haven't seen any academics use the term before.


"Winy Maas is a Dutch architect, landscape architect, professor and urbanist."


Harvard has just announced a new five-year academic program leading to a BS in Urban Studies. For those poor souls who got their undergraduate degree in 'Guatemalan Lesbian Studies', or something similar, Harvard will offer a three-year 'Master's in Urban Studies'. The doctorate program is still in the works. Figure six to eight years for the PhD. All will be financed, as usual, by the US taxpayers. The NCARB has kindly agreed to police the profession to ensure an Urbanist from North Dakota is not allowed to practice Urbanism in South Dakota without the proper credentials.

Aug 5, 18 6:33 am

I'm an urbanista. 

Aug 6, 18 4:59 pm

I'm a suburbanist.

Aug 6, 18 5:03 pm

what is a ruralist?

Aug 6, 18 5:28 pm

Gotta love the way the 'me generation' describe millennials.

Aug 7, 18 11:45 am

I'll put in a plea to be a little more narrow with the rhetorical brush.  

I teach a lot of folks from 18-30, and am impressed with the great work ethic and high level of personal responsibility many of them display-- not seeking to blame others for anything.  

Not all Millennials are Snowflakes, thank goodness.  And even the Snowflakes deserve some slack: they were taught hypersensitivity and narcissism by their elders.

Aug 7, 18 2:16 pm

Very true, they are of a generation that actively wants to change the world for a better one (with all the naiveté that comes with that) instead of passively looking at the government or corporations to do it for them or putting the pedal to the metal on the highway to hell. They've inherited a deeply polarised world on the brink of global catastrophe on every level imaginable, at least they try to do something about it.

won and done williams

And that isn't true of every generation before them? The difference is how you go about doing it.


Nope, it's the slash 'n burn tactics employed by the previous generations that they need to come to terms with and tackle if they want to be able to have any chance at all.

won and done williams

I disagree. On a macro level, I think every generation starts out idealistic: the boomers started out as the hippies; Gen X were the rebels; the greatest generation was fighting true evil (instead of the largely made-up evils we have today). It's over time that youthful idealism turns into something else whether by greed, pragmatism, life circumstances, etc. I think the idealism of youth is consistent. The means by which youth try to affect change are ever changing and what ultimately defines a generation.


Yep, but before each generation had it better than the previous, or so it seemed. That's no longer the case, the slash 'n burn tactics that have been applied/the pyramid scheme has run its course and we are seeing the consequences of that kind of policy on a political level or that attitude on a personal level all around. On a personal note, my father could buy a large enough family home on a single middle class income, I would be lucky buying a broom closet on a dual income. All the advantages the previous generations had they mortgaged on future generations, the earth was considered an infinite resource to be exploited for personal gain, when they already knew years ago this couldn't last.


Eugène Huzar, 1857, yes 1857: In one or two hundred years, criss-crossed by railways and steamships, covered with factories and workshops, the world will
emit billions of cubic metres of carbonic acid and carbon oxide, and, since the forests will have been destroyed, these hundreds of 
 billions of carbonic acid and carbon oxide may indeed disturb the harmony of the world.


i cant believe this hasn't been posted:

Aug 8, 18 12:27 am

^ Score! 

 A selection: 

  • leverage elastic peripheries  
  • curate abandoned interfaces
  • facilitate mutable equilibria

Of course, the architecture academy started this horrible trend a long time ago.  But it continues to infest.

Non Sequitur
  • grow aleatoric ecologies
  • urbanize dendritic architectures

I’ve been busy rectifying intermodal paradigms. Going to need a double dose of Reposado

Non Sequitur

Miles, does your love for aged tequila diversify invasive circuits? Certainly one can scale boolean grids without needing a drink or engineer transparent basins.  Asking for a friend.

This is fantastic, thank you Dangermouse. My favorite I've gotten: anticipate post-industrial convergence.


Overall I concur with Donna's succinct definition above.  But the "title" of urbanist used almost as a certification is a bit pompous.

Aug 8, 18 12:30 pm

Is "urbanist" another cute title professors need to tag on their CVs along with "artist" and "architect" (despite being unlicensed)? 

In my experience, when they say "urbanist" or "urbanism", they think ideal "urban design" as opposed to your average real life urban sprawl, backed by regulation-driven urban / town planning. 

In France, the meaning of "urbanisme" still has more to do with theoretical urban design, than, say, British town planning; probably that's why anglo academia likes to use words derived from it.  It sort of mirrors the ideal, ivory-tower, academic architectural design ("urbanist") vs real-life architecture (planner).

Also, it's typical of anglosphere elitist snobs, including those in academia, to overuse French-sounding (or Latin) words.

Aug 10, 18 9:51 am

When I see "urbanist" I think of someone who holds a set of views that include being a proponent of density, transit, diversity, public space, and design that goes beyond object to include variable context.

What if you agree with all of these points, but don't agree with how the urbanism movement (McUrbanism) promotes a kind of top-down generic kind of urbanism that focuses on politicians (Bloomberg, world's greatest architect?) instead of the qualities of these spaces? You don't see these urbanism lobbyists proclaiming any of their theories would work in non-megacities without deep culture roots and architectural diversity and heritage. Usually their algorithms produce a kind of banal, city killing Bloombergian vision of luxury high-rises devoid of the kind of craft-first design that built cities in the first place. Not surprising this kind of urbanism is promoted by many the kind of technocrats that benefit from a top-down faux-urbanism. 

What comes first, architecture or urbanism? Most architects believe in both, but urbanists only believe in politics. 

Aug 10, 18 11:25 am

"goes beyond object" is kind of the buzzphrase here I see in many urbanism conversations -- a kind of cynical "let them eat public space" narrative that gives up a holistic urbanism in favor of tactical (trickle down) urbanism. Let's just trust the taste and wisdom of developers and technocrats and focus on this post-industrial park? 

The  definition has been a problem for decades...

see Louis Wirth, "Urbanism as a Way of Life."

Aug 10, 18 1:48 pm

Good cite. And Lou was only focused on what constituted the urban. He didn't even get to urbanist as a concept to define. Big subject.

A liberal .

Aug 11, 18 4:35 pm

wew lad

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