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Thread: Help with urban design grad schools and private sector

  1. #1
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    Help with urban design grad schools and private sector

    I am currently completing my bachelors in Geography and am applying to graduate programs in urban planning. I have lingering doubts about future career possibilities. These questions assume acceptance into graduate schools (PennDesign, Cornell, Virginia).

    First, I should say that I am specifically avoiding government work for what I see to be an extremely limited role: planner as city agent. I would like to work in the private sector and/or the non-profit sector and see my designs actualized and built or bad policies made better.

    My undergraduate training is a concern, however. I know it is traditional to list geography among the fields that urban designers matriculate from. However, I am wondering if these individuals are filling predominantly GIS roles (I don't want to be the GIS guy that creates the computer model of someone else's design). Is there a desire/need/opportunity for human geographers within urban design or is the absence of formal architectural training an immediate hindrance career-wise? Will design roles in private firms be filled exclusively be architects? Will I be able to make substantive design contributions within a private firm or advocacy group?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I work on the private sector side of planning, but I am not immune to the politics/bad policies that sometimes keep projects "on the shelves". I love working in the private sector, but I think it's equally important to gain experience working in the public sector (you are probably going to be working with the public sector or developers when you are working as a consultant). In terms of seeing your designs implemented, I think that depends partly on your training, your previous experience, and mostly market demands and luck of the draw: you could work for a firm where you are cranking out specs for the rest of your life or work for another firm and play a bigger role in master planning, site design, redevelopment, etc.

    What do you want to do as a designer? GIS is a very important tool that can be used in the design process. There is always a need for mapping: some firms place a higher premium on it than others. However, there is no subsitute for designing by hand and it's advantageous to learn both manual and computer ways to design.

    Design firms usually hire architects, landscape architects, and "urban designers" to do most types of site design. Engineers and surveyors also play an important role. How strong is your design portfolio? Do you have internship experience working in a design firm? What other skills do you have (drawing, sketching, mapping, GPS, etc.)?

  3. #3
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TrueGreenCore View post
    ...First, I should say that I am specifically avoiding government work for what I see to be an extremely limited role: planner as city agent. I would like to work in the private sector and/or the non-profit sector and see my designs actualized and built or bad policies made better...
    At the risk of getting into a flame war with my good friends in the public sector: You might want to rethink this thought as I think these two sentences are in sharp opposition to each other.
    A public sector planner is the agent of the community that represents its best interests. You don't think a public sector planner wants to see good "designs actualized"? We're here to see those good designs get through process and to be the roadblock to bad designs and bad policy.

    The private/non-profit sector won't go anywhere without the support of a public sector planner (from the mouth of a public sector planner).
    RJ is the KING of . The One

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    nrschmid

    I have no design experience, nor do I have a portfolio. As a geographer, this was not needed. My interest is less in the actual drawing than in determining the specific location and relation of aspects of cities (houses, business, parks to schools, etc.) I am interested in working on the spatial aspects of city planning and design.

    Will a Master's in urban design provide me with the skills necessary? Or, am I placing myself in a position to earn a degree and be the least desirable applicant to any company or organization as a result of not having that art/architecture background?

  5. #5
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    internship/experience

    As far as an internship goes and other experience, I helped to organize an alternative transportation conference a few years back and I might land an internship for this summer with the city planning agency prior to starting my grad school work.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by TrueGreenCore View post
    I have no design experience, nor do I have a portfolio. As a geographer, this was not needed. My interest is less in the actual drawing than in determining the specific location and relation of aspects of cities (houses, business, parks to schools, etc.) I am interested in working on the spatial aspects of city planning and design.
    So basically you would be determining where a good location for a business based on market factors: location of the nearest business branch, location of the nearest competitor, access to expressways, housing data, correct? If this is what you want to do, I would look for a GIS job working for a fortune 500 company and skip grad school for now. I applied for a few GIS jobs doing similar work for Walgreens, Best Buy, etc (they are always looking for new locations to build). Personally, I think there will still be a demand for commercial uses in 2008 and will take a few years for residential sales to go back up. I was offered a full-time job doing this type of GIS work for a marketing company (turned it down because I already had a job).

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