The College of Environmental Design has a long history of excellence in urban design education and research, spanning across the three design disciplines. For many decades the Department of Architecture was noted for contextual design with faculty such as William Wurster, Joseph Esherick, Vernon DeMars, Richard Bender and Charles Moore. Beginning in the late 1940s the Department of City Planning laid a solid foundation for urban design in its physical approach to city planning in the work of T. J. Kent, Jr., Corwin Mocine, Sidney Williams and Fran Violich.
In the late 1960s, urban design education at Berkeley gained momentum with the appointments of Donald Appleyard and Roger Montgomery. Faculty established the Environmental Simulation Laboratory and helped found Places magazine. In the 1970s Allan Jacobs, the former planning director for San Francisco, and Donlyn Lyndon joined the College faculty, later joined by Michael Southworth and Peter Bosselmann.