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Thread: Urban Planning vs. Urban Design, and other life-or-death questions

  1. #1

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    Urban Planning vs. Urban Design, and other life-or-death questions

    Greetings, all-
    I pop up every once in a while around here, mostly incorrectly guessing cities and commenting on my hometown. This time I actually have a reason, and I know you all are very helpful with these sorts of things.

    I'm currently in my third year of an undergraduate Public Policy degree here at William and Mary and have begun thinking about beginning to start to look at considering graduate schools.

    I could probably use a stronger definition of the difference between the two, but Urban Design seems to interest me more than strict Planning. However, the research I've done seems to indicate that UD graduate schools tend to like undergrad degrees in architecture, which I don't have and won't get (W&M doesn't have a program). What's the difference, and how important is the undergrad degree?

    Finally, for someone who wants to spend some time in a new place (i.e. away from VA), what are your suggestions for good graduate schools? My grades are only average right now, but they will hopefully be up by the time I graduate. Suggestions?

    -Ben

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    Hi Benk

    I am an Urban Planner and have a lot of interest in Urban Design.
    Its better not to get confused between the two. There may be a thin line bet ween them but it depends.
    I think the whole approach to both are quite different.
    I would suggest that to make plans work its better to be an urban planner and then give adequate emphasis on the urabn design aspect.
    To give an aesthetic and appealing look to a street( planned effort I mean), or to design and develop/redevelop a new city part, Open space and abutting space planning needs a lot of urban design inputs but the overall plan must fall in the macro plan where the practical issues of infrastructure, transportation adn cost benefit( community point of view) has to be seen.
    What I am saying is my personal opinion as I face this question many times where I live and practise. I also try to speak to students here to make them understand how intricately both Urban Design and Urban Planning are designed and if both go together, then the final output is worth its effort.
    You have to make the distinction between practical design and good looking design( which is also practical).
    Im sure that other members on the forum will speak on this.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    You are right in assessing that urban design is more closely associated with architecture. It sounds like you will end up in an urban planning program. Some of these do stress design more than others. The University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee is a good example, where planning and architecture are combined. Portland State is another program I have heard good things about, though I am not personally familiar with it. Another possibility is to look for a program at a university that also has a landscape architecture program. Still another possibility is to consider a geography degree that may let you tailor a program including courses from several departments. This is the route I took after my undergrad public administration degree. While I would like to recommend my own alma mater, instead I might suggest the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis).
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    Achitecture vs. Public Administration

    What would you say are the benefits of attending a graduate program in urban planning affiliated with an Architecture school versus attending one affiliated with a school of public administration? Any disadvantages?

    thanks!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TheRedandTheBlack
    What would you say are the benefits of attending a graduate program in urban planning affiliated with an Architecture school versus attending one affiliated with a school of public administration? Any disadvantages?

    thanks!
    Almost any university is going to have a public administration program, so you can benefit from that anywhere. Assuming that there is a close relationship between the planning and architecture, or planning and public administration programs, I think you will find that it is a very similar answer to benk's question. The architecture will tend to focus on design programs, while public administration is more likely to emphasize the mechanics, such as zoning, facilitation, and capital programming.
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  6. #6
         
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    Not to promote something dear and near to my hear but the University of Kansas has an Urban Planning graduate program within the school of architecuture that has an emphasis in Urban Design (really called Physical Development), here is a link if anyone is interested.

    www.saud.ku.edu

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
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    This is a pretty common question benk928 - I think all Universities offering these courses should make it a standard part of their FAQ's. The Throbbing Brain (TM) looked at this fairly recently. You may find some useful advice here.

    Good luck with your inquiries and decision.

  8. #8
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    [a bit of a tangent...]

    in my limited experience in the field at the county level, I find that Urban Design is so often forgotten in community planning.

    of course, zoning ordiances can't tell one how to implement good design, at best, it will merely prevent bad design. (Although, that isn't always the case, either).

    I find the disconnect btwn community planning and design as the biggest challenge facing planning. The more poorly designed subdivisions I see, the more it motivates me to become a builder myself. (But obviously the bigger problem is that zoning can't be the sole tool of implementing good design).

    What other tools can one use?

    randy

  9. #9
          arvindil's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by rwaltermyer
    [a bit of a tangent...]

    in my limited experience in the field at the county level, I find that Urban Design is so often forgotten in community planning.

    of course, zoning ordiances can't tell one how to implement good design, at best, it will merely prevent bad design. (Although, that isn't always the case, either).

    I find the disconnect btwn community planning and design as the biggest challenge facing planning. The more poorly designed subdivisions I see, the more it motivates me to become a builder myself. (But obviously the bigger problem is that zoning can't be the sole tool of implementing good design).

    randy
    Couldn't agree with you more . Continuing with the tangential thinking , i believe what ails most planning and urban design is that they are seen as two different phases of a process , urban planning results in the overall plan with the landuse allocation and zoning and after that the 'design' comes in . In a situation like this urban design is reduced to mere ornamentatiom ( not as in decoration but as a situation where the urban designer is working with his hands tied within the parameters defined by the planner ) The two disciplines should work in tandem from the word go .
    As it has been mentioned before in the thread , it seems you would end up being an urban planner , urban design does need a design background .

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by arvindil
    .... i believe what ails most planning and urban design is that they are seen as two different phases of a process , urban planning results in the overall plan with the landuse allocation and zoning and after that the 'design' comes in . In a situation like this urban design is reduced to mere ornamentatiom ....
    I agree this would be a typical scenario in the past, but I think well resourced planning activities these days tend to examine preferred futures more properly. That means urban design outcomes are as important as any other elements and are respected in the initial stages as a result. No doubt there are plenty of quick and nasty projects that still tack the design on at the end, but I think even the planners doing that sort of work recognise cost of expediency.

  11. #11

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    so where to go from here?

    I figured that design would require more art/architecture, but I am encouraged by little hints that design and planning are, in some schools, very much intertwined. Does anyone have more specific advice as to where I should go for such a program at the graduate level?

    -Ben

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
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    If you're prepared to travel and can get in, I understand the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) (Australia) handles this well. Another Cyburbanite (JNL) told me so it must be true.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally posted by TheRedandTheBlack
    What would you say are the benefits of attending a graduate program in urban planning affiliated with an Architecture school versus attending one affiliated with a school of public administration? Any disadvantages?

    thanks!
    One is more design oriented and the other more towards policy. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Is planning closer related to arch or public affairs? IMO, planning is a distinct field and is important enough to have it's own dept/school and UD should be housed in arch schools. Nonetheless, I'd rather planning be looked upon as closer related to public affairs for social justice, gov't efficiency, etc.
    Last edited by BIH80; 19 Sep 2005 at 10:24 PM.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    I'd look into Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. They have a specific UD degree for those already possessing a masters in urban and regional planning. Eventhough you're an undergrad, you might look into their masters programs too. Hope this helps.

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