URBAN DESIGN International

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 257–271 | Cite as

Science, pseudo-science and urban design

  • Stephen Marshall
Original Article


Urban design theory has been criticised for being incoherent and insubstantial. It is suggested that this is partly because urban design theory is not robustly based on a fully scientific underpinning. In so far as urban design theory appears to be scientific, it is in danger of being pseudo-scientific. This article explores the relationship between science and pseudo-science, and questions the extent to which urban design theory could be called pseudo-scientific, by considering the hypotheses underlying four classic urban design theory texts. It is found that although the individual texts are more or less scientific, the way the field as a whole combines and uses these can be interpreted as pseudo-scientific. The article reflects on the interpretation of pseudo-science and suggests the need for urban design to have a better system of validation and critical assimilation of scientific knowledge.


urban design science pseudo-science theory planning 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Marshall
    • 1
  1. 1.Bartlett School of Planning, University College LondonLondonUK

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