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Thread: Urban design without an architecture background?

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    Urban design without an architecture background?

    Hi everyone - I'm new to this forum - I am here with a very important question. I have just been accepted into a few masters in city planning programs (irvine and upenn, hopefully berkeley and MIT, i'll know soon). My intention is to pick urban design as my concentration, because I want to one day work for a consulting firm as an urban designer. My dilemma is this: I studied Geography and Sociology as an undergrad, NOT architecture. I have been an urban planner in a gov office for 2 years, so I'm not coming out of left field or anything, but I keep wondering if my 2 years masters in city planning will be enough to get me a good urban design job, considering i dont have the architecture background. PLEASE GIVE ME SOME ADVICE SO I CAN DECIDE WHETHER THIS MASTERS IS A GOOD INVESTMENT!!

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    I guess it is a good investment no matter what, but i would be cautious with your school selection more than anything else. You don't need an architecture background to work at firm that specialize in design (case in point, i work at a multi-disciplinary design firm), but you do need a good eye for design, as well as know how to whip out pen and conceptually draw out your ideas whether they be poorly drawn or not. As long as you have the keen eye for design you should be fine. To land that "good design job" is a different matter because, really what is a "good design job". There are many factors, including previous work experience, where you went to school, talent based on portofolio, a firms current and future need,and location of where you desire to work, etc. I would tend to think a upenn and mit would be good fits because they have architecture departments and tend to side more on design, while a UC Irvine is not because it is all theory, no design (where as compared to a cal poly where design is emphasized) and berkely is a toss up because it is more theory based, but i know they do have a design component, just don't know how much it is emphasized. Again, choose your school based on what type of design course are offered, as well as what type of cross-pollination you can do (such as taking a landscape architecture course here and there because those help the most for urban designers). Good luck!
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

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    multi-disciplinary urban designn firm?

    thanks so much for your helpful response. i was interested to hear the term "multi-disciplinary urban design firm".... could you give me some examples of such firms so I could research them???? Thanks!!

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Well, there i don't think there is a "multi-disciplinary" urban design firm per say, but there are firms that specialize in urban design that work in that setting. Take for instance my firm (i can you pm you info if you like). We take on urban design projects from sometimes up to three disciplines within our firm: Planning (create the design guidelines and standards, as well as have a hand in conceptual design), than our landscape architects go into design development of parks, open spaces, trails, parking lot design, etc, while our architecture department works on the design development and construction documents of building design based on footprints, guidelines, and standards detailed by both planning and landscape architecture, and finally our engineering team is involved in ensuring we have the proper storm drainage, water, and sewer and other "wet" facilities are in place to service the project, as well as design up to construction documents for its implementation. This is the multi-disciplinary approach, which i learned in school, and our firm tries to follow through when going after projects. There aren't many firms around that can do this type of work in house, and they call in all different shapes and sizes and can vary by having just architecture or planning, landscape architecture and planning, etc.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

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    Cyburbian
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    http://online.asla.org/scriptcontent...age=firmfinder

    Select Speciality < Urban Design.

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    Cyburbian
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    Penn has a design concentration, which it touts as one of the main strengths of its planning program. The studios are also fairly design intensive.

    However, you may want to consider looking into a master's of landscape architecture. MLAs are increasingly replacing planners in urban design/planning firms.

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    hmm

    so in other words, i could go to school and study urban planning with a concentration on urban design, but then upon graduating, most of the urban design jobs would be snatched up by landcape architects? See, this is my main fear. Do you think this a valid fear?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian RubberStamp Man's avatar
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    No and yes - depends on what type of "designer" they are looking for. There are different levels of design work, some are conceptual/high level/dare I say visioning, while others are more detailed and as a consequence need to be more technical and familiar with materials, the sizes they are manufactured, species appropriateness for soils, climate, etc.

    Also, in terms of your original question what kind of design work are you looking for? Do you enjoy working on guidelines, researching different standards and and conceptualizing form and fit within an existing urban structure, or do you want to draw up a master/site plan for a park/open space square?

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