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Thread: Ring, ring goes the bell

  1. #1

    Ring, ring goes the bell

    Hello All:
    I've been quite engaged with this discussion about planning in regard to sustainable practices that nurture our communities as people-centered (that's all people) rather than technologically-obsessed (instead of the intentional use of machines).

    Trouble is, the conversation has been going on only inside of my head and a few ear-flattened friends. So I want to come jump into your pond, but I don't know where to jump onto the first lily pad.

    My question is, for any who care to contribute: "What Masters in Urban and Regional Planning grad programs support the creation of innovation solutions/alternatives to the kinds of planning issues discussed in the Cantina here?"

    And "Is a MURP-grad best equipped to tackling these problems? Is there another degree more suited for effective action?" (I want to be Philosopher King, but I can't seem to find any programs for it.) My BA is in Philosophy and English and I'm willing to move anywhere in the U.S. (I'm currently in Lancaster,PA, the site of fast disappearing farmland.)

    I welcome any and all suggestions.

    Thank you,

    Donovan Hart

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Emeritus Perry Norton's avatar
    Aug 2001
    Tucson, Arizona

    Ring, ring goes the bell

    Hello there.

    I should ask a question or two. Where do you want to go? For example, do you want to go full-scale into planning, with all of its frustrations, or into journalism, with all its frustrations? Do you want to go into politics, and serve as a member of the city council? There are so many ways to approach planning, all of which have validity. Have you a prior idea that you'd like to explore?

    Perry Norton

  3. #3

    Ring, ring goes the bell


    Thanks for your questions.

    I wanna go into politics, where all the big cigars are.No, just kidding.

    Being the idealist, I want to go where I can do the most good. Yes, I can see the inherent frustrations of being a planner and making recommendations, only to see them go down in flames by blood-money soaked councilpeople. And I can imagine eventually seeking politics because I want' to see some leadership on these issues, rather than blind tailpiping sniffing rubberstamping.

    So, to answer your question, I want to go the full planning route. I e-mailed J.H. Kunstler and he recommended Michigan, your alma mater I believe. Would you recommend it these days? (transportation seems to be my main focus.)

    I'm also attracted to Portland State, the reason being that they to being listening to more progressive ideas out there, so someone must be doing some pretty loud speaking. Also, U. of Minnesota comes to mind. Whaddya say? I appreciate your any anyone else's input.



  4. #4
    Okay, I'll throw in my two cents.
    First, if you want to "make a difference," consider the private sector. Under the current political climate, us public sector planners spend most of our time reacting to plans from the private sector--we don't have the opportunity to do a lot of original thinking. That may be changing; but for right now, I would say that consultants like Duany and Calthorpe are more effective than any city planning director in the country.

    Second, consider getting another degree as well as the MURP, especially if you are headed for the private sector. As we have discussed here before, lots of employers aren't satisfied with planners for planning jobs--they want you to also be a lawyer, or engineer, or architect, etc. etc. (I'm not saying this is good or fair--just that it seems to be that way.)

    Third, if the position of philosopher-king comes open, I got dibs.

  5. #5
    Your counsel is good, Meister Scott.
    And, it's just what I feared. I'm not opposed to law degree,
    though my Barrister Papa seems to get plenty of frowns.
    (He'd overjoyed if I got wigged myself.)

    But it just hit me the other day: All the built landscape I see
    was done legally, or with at least implicit approval of the
    leaders of the municipality. It just boggles my mind.

    Tonight I just finished reading "The Geography of Nowhere" and
    it dismays and energizes me. Nothing was done by accident.
    Someone was always acting in their best interest. But the
    end result is not in anyone's interest. (except maybe gun
    manufacturers and shrinks.)

    My destiny lies here somewhere. (Maybe it's karma- I grew up
    in Shaker Heights,OH which lead the way for sprawl in the 20's.)

    So, do you know any schools that offer a joint MURP/law degree?
    I peeked at U. of Minn.

    If want that philosopher king crown, I'm afraid there's gonna be a little swordplay...

  6. #6

    Hell-o, goldmine

    This is a letter to Donovan but also to others, especially you regulars who seem to be keeping this list alive.

    I am a 21-year old American studying for a Masters in planning at KTH in Stockholm. I would have liked to study at MIT or elsewhere, but the cost prevented me from even applying. The advantage of KTH is that it is free and located in a famous nexus of progressive planning, but I have been a little disappointed so far. Donovan, I would try schools on the west coast. From working in New York we found more examples of innovative solutions coming from that side of the continent. Or you might look into studying Space Syntax at Georgia Tech.

    I have to disagree with those who advocate this separation of planning and architecture. I find that planning is greatly lacking from the attention to local area design and intellectual theory that can be found in architecture.

    Lastly, an address to those who are contributing from Sweden. We are doing a project on sprawl in the Södertörn region and are horrified at the lack of social cohesion in these so-called miracle public transit suburbs. (Vallingby?) Is anyone interested in discussing this with a couple of international planners who are new to the area?

    Thanks everyone and keep up the good work!

  7. #7
    Hi Marisa,

    I would be very interested in discussing these issues with you. I guess I can most accurately describe myself as an "amateur planner" -- more sensibly, I can say that I am a layman who's very interested in planning and has done a fair amount of reading in the field. I also took a transportation planning course at the Northern Virginia center run by Va. Tech and (some other school, can't remember) back in 1992, because transportation is my great interest.

    I live in Sundbyberg and now work full-time on Lidingöbanan as a driver.

    Feel free to e-mail me. I'd be very interested in talking to you. (I'm particularly interested in your views on architecture and planning as separate but related fields. My own feeling is that planning is more of a holistic field, or at least more interdisciplinary, than architecture, and that has dissuaded me from considering planning study in Sweden, where planning study seems to be VERY closely linked to architecture.)

    Tim Kynerd

  8. #8
    I have been told that Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond Law School (both located in Richmond, VA) offer a joint planning/law program. Don't know any details.
    And watch out for Mr. Kunstler. His criticisms of our built environment are mostly justified, but his proposed solutions are grossly oversimplified. The real world is messy and complex and never quite works out right. But we could do better.

  9. #9
    I don't know what sort of programs are offered by Portland State, but I visited the campus this summer and it is awesome. It is right downtown and serves as an excellent example of how a large use like a college campus can be integrated into the fabric of the city to add diversity and life to its neighborhood.
    And downtown Portland itself is amazing. The things that they are doing there are really inspiring. Sure, they have their problems like the rest of us, but they are tackling them head on rather than pretending they don't exist. The downtown sidewalks are packed day and night, thousands of people live downtown, and there is new construction going on everywhere. The blocks are small, the streets are narrow, and the sidewalks are wide. Bus and light rail transit are abundant and are free of charge in the downtown area. They have reclaimed their downtown waterfront by tearing down a freeway and created an amazing public open space called Pioneer Courthouse Square by tearing down an old parking garage.

    I don't know what kind of programs the school offers, but by going to Portland you will learn A LOT about innovative planning.

    By the way, I really like Jim Kunstler's books, also. He is freinds with Andres Duaney and Peter Calthorpe and is a member of their organization, the COngress for the New Urbanism. You might want to check out Calthorpe's book "The Next American Metropolis" and Duaney's new book "Suburban Nation." Both are great. Have you read "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" by Jane Jacobs? If you haven't, you should. She wrote it in 1961 and was way ahead of her time. It is still cutting edge.

    I recieved my degree in Geography from Cal State Fresno. I chose geography because they canned the planning department and what was left of the planning curriculum was in geography. Anyway, I didn't really learn much about innivative planning in school. I have learned a lot more from reading everything innovative that I can get my hands on, such as the books listed above, and at my job. I also try to visit as many innovative developments as I can, such as Laguna West in Sacramento and Orenco Station in Portland. I also try to learn from visiting classic neighborhoods like North Beach in SF.

    If there is a graduate program that you can find that teaches this stuff, let me know. I would love to enroll in one too. I find it hard to justify the cost (time and dollars) of a master's program if all I'm going to learn about is single-use zoning and multi-lane freeways.

    Good luck!


  10. #10
    Aug 2001

    Ring, ring goes the bell

    I agree with my shipmates that the west has probably always been ahead of us here in the east as to innovation in planning. God knows we've had our hands full just keeping our infrastructure from falling apart. That said let me offer my two cents. I like the idea of joint degrees, although they can be pretty time consuming. How about a school that will give you a degree in something, say planning but will let you take a broad range of courses in other divisions of the school. My alma mater, NYU (which by the way was heavily into the philosopher king business with a heavy dose of administrative type courses), used to, and may still offer a planning degree which allowed the student to take a significant number of courses in the real estate masters program. Business might me another possible combination.

    The direction I'm going here is to advise you to get into the private sector but not consulting. If you want to make a difference, build it yourself. I may be jumping ahead to the job search phase here but of course from there you can back into the kind of degree you want to get. When the time comes, hook up with a major development company, learn the business and move on to your own company. Don't just (forgive me boys and girls) be a planner. Be the guy who hires the planner to fulfill your vision. Real estate, engineering, construction technology, law, business, and architecture in addition to planning will all serve you in good stead as background.

    If this approach does not appeal to you, by your second or at the latest your third job, you should be the planning director or commissioner even if onbly in a small community. This will save you years of frustration in not only fighting the politicians (which you will do anyway)but fighting your own boss, who unless you are extremely fortunate or extremely mature, will seem to be a Neanderthal who studied planning with Daniel Burnham.

    And finally, stay out of politics. This may sound awfully cynical but you will have more influence as a wealthy developer than you will as an elected official.

    Good luck,


    PS Stay in touch with us here at the Cantina. I'm sure we'd all like to hear what you decide to do.

  11. #11

    Ring, ring goes the bell

    I graduated from the U of M in 1989 with a MUP. I found it interesting and theoretical, rather than practical. They focused more on the big picture of current problems and issues in planning. I recommend the program if theory is your bent.

    I work in Southern California. A school with a good reputation as having a practical approach is the Cal State at Pomona. I've heard it's more oriented to "what's a variance and how do I process it." UCLA and USC both have recommended programs.

    I think a MUP or MURP or MCRP (any others?) with a strong review of constitutional and state law related to planning is the best way to be a planner. I don't think being an architect or being a lawyer and trying to plan gives you the background necessary to be an effective planner. I also think you need classes in design because we frequently get involved
    in critiquing (or assisting a board in critiquing) the design of a project.

    I work for the City of Glendale. Our recommendations are not always shot down in the face of opposition from developers. Remember in So. Cal there is a very motivated public that frequently opposes big new development. Lots of voters that the Council listens to. We do make a difference.

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