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Thread: My interests + (insert program specialty)=career goals

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    My interests + (insert program specialty)=career goals

    I'm going to try to work backwards and see if it helps. I've looked at real estate development programs, landscape architecture programs, and then the different specialties within planning programs and I'm having trouble deciding which one would be the best for what I want to do. However, I do have a general idea what I'd like to do.

    I'm hoping that if I tell you guys what I'd like to do career-wise, you can perhaps point me in the right direction as far as which program (not specific programs, but which course of study) would be most effective.

    Here goes: On a conceptual level I'm interested in how historic preservation could be used as a tool for some of the principles of smart growth (TOD, human scale, environmental planning, etc). I'm not, however, interested in the museum-like aspects of preservation (protecting this house b/c it's a fine specimen of ________). I'm interested more in historic districts from an urban design standpoint and preserving the urban design qualities of those districts. My background is in philosophy and psychology (although I work for an architecture nonprofit) so the environmental psychology issues in urban design are really interesting.

    On a more technical level, I'm interested in policy analysis on the one hand (eg, researching different models for historic district tax programs) and urban design issues on the other. I'm not interested in being the designer per se (and I have no design background at all) but I do care alot about design and creating human-scaled urban experiences. Ideally I'd be able to do something that combines the two (with a 70/30 mix of policy/data crunching and design-related task).

    So what do you think? Lanscape Arch? Planning w/ a focus on Urban Design? Historic Preservation? Transit Oriented Development?

    I really appreciate any response!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    You definetely have a variety of interests that covers a wide spectrum. Can you elaborate on how historic preservation is used as a tool for smart growth? I think you are more interested in preserving existing cities than historic preservation. Traditionally historic preservation is the process for buildings and structures to receive designation (and in most cases funding) by local, regional, state, and/or federal historic societys and agencies (including the National Register of Historic Landmarks).

    You also said you are interested in researching different models for historic district tax programs, but not going through the process to preserve houses. I can see you working for a municipality as a current and/or long-range planner to create historic districts as well as tax incentives for these districts. Your interest in conceptual design and creating human-scaled urban experiences may be translated in creating design guidelines, downtown plans, and comprehensive plans.

    Because your interests are quite varied, I would recommend you find a planning program that offers a general introduction into many areas of planning. However, I would take additional coursework in zoning, transportation planning, historic preservation, and urban design (as well as elective studios in landscape architecture including how to create streetscapes and mixed use). Find a planning program that offers as much interdisiciplinary coursework as possible. Since you are not interested in hard-core design I would avoid MLA programs. Masters of Urban Design programs (MUD) are such a coin-toss. I try to convince students/potential students to avoid them unless they are using an MUD to supplement an architecture/landscape architecture degree and training.

    Hope this helps-

  3. #3
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mobiusstrip View post
    On a conceptual level I'm interested in how historic preservation could be used as a tool for some of the principles of smart growth (TOD, human scale, environmental planning, etc). I'm not, however, interested in the museum-like aspects of preservation (protecting this house b/c it's a fine specimen of ________). I'm interested more in historic districts from an urban design standpoint and preserving the urban design qualities of those districts. My background is in philosophy and psychology (although I work for an architecture nonprofit) so the environmental psychology issues in urban design are really interesting.
    Well I can hopefully be of some help since I just graduated, landed a job and do sort of what you want to do. I work for a local gov. as a planner, but I split my time between general planning and being the historic preservation planner for our downtown and neighborhood conservation overlay district that is around our historic downtown. I have an undergrad in poly sci, so no formal design in my undergrad, a master's in urban and regional planning and a graduate certificate in historic preservation. My master's degree is from UF.

    In more general terms I would go for a masters in urban planning within a program that is more 'design' based instead of theory. Typically you will find these where the urban planning program is within an architecture school or a design school. You can take classes in the other disciplines more easily to get some more design training. Look at the classes offered by each program and the research interests of the profs...they will tell you alot about the program.

    Also you may want to look at a school that has a historic preservation program within design college. If you ultimately want to work in historic preservation, I would highly suggest getting some sort of degree or certificate in HP...jobs are hard to come by with planning degree in HP unless you have some experience or a specific degree.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Are you looking for a Masters program or an Undergraduate Program?

    The College of Charleston's Undergraduate Program in Historic Preservation is actually called "Historic Preservation and Community Planning." Their graduate historic preservation program is fairly new, but I would imagine that it would incorporate some of the community planning elements as well.

    Because of the advantages of being a Certified Local Government, many cities now have historic preservation boards/design committees, have historic districts, and often have a historic preservation planner. A big part of what preservation planners do is look at new projects that affect historic buildings and make sure that any changes follow state and federal guidelines.

    Many historic preservation planners, especially in areas that do not have a strong historic preservation non-profit also educate the public about the advantages of historic preservation, work with developers who want to do large-scale rehabilitation programs, and help property owners through tax credit and grant applications.

    That said, if you focus on preservation in your studies and/or work, you will have to deal with "this house is a fine specimen of ___" and "the windows of this building are an important element and cannot be replaced because ___." However, if you go into historic preservation planning, you can use your knowledge of historic structures to help develop overlay districts or zoning districts that preserve a "traditional" scale, help promote the economic revitalization of historic commercial areas (that are often walkable and on a human scale), and educate people about the "green" aspects of historic preservation - the ultimate recycling project!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quite honestly, it sounds like you need to start looking beyond a master's degree. Your interests strike me as largely research-oriented / academic, rather than practical.

    In the interim, I would recommend a master's in planning with emphasis on design.

    Best wishes.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks for all the responses so far; you've all been very helpful.

    nrschmid- I see historic preservation as a part of smart growth because of it's emphasis on utilizing embodied energy of pre-existing structures, the more compact pedestrian oriented scale typical of historic districts, and the sense of place that historic districts can offer. I think you're right insofar as I don't care about the museum approach of "this house should be on the historic register b/c _____". I'm mostly interested in preserving the pre-existing building stock where it fulfills one or more of the qualities I mentioned above about smart growth. Could you elaborate a bit on conceptual design vs other design? I ask b/c I've participated in charettes before and thought I did really well, but we weren't drawing at those stages, just fleshing out ideas and thinking about different options. I'm really keen on the development of the ideas that guide urban/environmental design, but I'm not versed in the graphic design/rendering itself.

    beach bum- Your job sounds interesting; could you describe some of the projects/tasks you've done recently? Is it mostly code development/enforcement with an emphasis on HP? Is it more abstract, conceptually driven planning for the future? How significant is your voice/opinion to developers/owners/others who might want to do things that run contrary to your area's preservation goals?

    anf- charleston is a very cool town, and I'd love to visit again. I left the south alittle over a year ago and I'm not yet ready to head back. I'm applying for Master's programs (already have BA in philosophy and psych)

    strumpeace- you hit the nail on the head I think. academia is really attractive to me; specifically, a mix of academia and some consulting work would be ideal. Any tips on going that route?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Academia is cool. I'm applying to a Ph.D. program right now.

    You might look at Public Policy and/or Urban Affairs programs. There are still a few schools that admit students to Ph.D. programs without a master's. (You earn the master's 'on the way' while working on the Ph.D.) Most, though, require a master's first.

    I'm not sure where you live or where you want to live, but the first thing that comes to mind is Louisville. They have a master's in planning (rather highly regarded, at least regionally) and a Ph.D. in urban affairs (highly regarded nationally). With the Ph.D., you choose an emphasis in either urban planning or urban policy.

    There are several schools that have these same programs. Louisville is the example I used, but you may want to look at schools that are more design-oriented. (I'm more interested in the community development angle, so my search has been aimed more toward finding programs that are c.d.-oriented.)

    To summarize: Master's in planning at a school with design emphasis, then Ph.D. in policy. Best of both worlds.

    Best wishes.

    (ETA: I see that you live in Seattle. My thesis adviser obtained his Ph.D. in urban studies from Portland State. Very solid program there.)

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by mobiusstrip View post
    Thanks for all the responses so far; you've all been very helpful.

    Could you elaborate a bit on conceptual design vs other design? I ask b/c I've participated in charettes before and thought I did really well, but we weren't drawing at those stages, just fleshing out ideas and thinking about different options. I'm really keen on the development of the ideas that guide urban/environmental design, but I'm not versed in the graphic design/rendering itself.
    Conceptual design may include locating desired land uses within a site plan. This can be represented by simple bubbles: residential, commercial, open space, etc., or it can be more elaborate/complex with lot lines, building envelopes, typical lot diagrams, proposed vegetation, crosswalks, etc. Conceptual design boards communicate concepts or visions of a desired product. They are used to guide and influence decision makers in going forward with a project. Public involvement, including charettes, neighborhood workshops, and hearings are crucial in garnering support for projects within the community.

    In some projects, deliverables such as comprehensive plans, downtown plans, and design guidelines, conceptual graphics are incorporated into the final planning document, which is typically text with graphics. Landscape architects, architects, and planners (with a strong design background) typically create these projects.

    Design development/construction documents are the next steps in the design process. These plans are far more complex. Construction documents (CDs) are the final blueprints that determine how the finished product will look. Architects, landscape architects, engineers, and surveyors typically work on this type of design. In a streetscape project, the landscape architect will choose (or spec) what street furniture to use, the square footage of pavers, dimensions of curb cuts, etc. Architects will design the buildings including insulation, HVAC, roofing materials, windows. In commercial,office, and other nonresidential sites, interior designers will work om the interiors of these structures. Few planners are able to do this work unless they also have a design degree (architecture, landscape architecture, engineering) and/or on the job training.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    nice summarization.

    as an architect, i know it is quite difficult to explain the profession in lamens terms to an outsider.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Well I can tell you working in the real world, with real property owners, building tenants and historic preservationation-minded groups is a balancing act. If it were all perfect in theory and everyone did what they were supposed to do, they would not need me! Not only do I represent the town and its interests, but I give my own professional opinions and interpretations on matters in the historic district and surrounding area which is within a neighborhood conservation district (look these up, I think they would interest you). My interest is the neighborhood as a whole, not necessarily each house as an architectural specimen.

    Most recently I wrote architectural design guidelines for new homes and major renovations in the district. Currently, I am working on the graphic piece of those design guidelines for a manuel. On a daily basis I speak with property owners in the district and honestly the relationships I am able to build within the community are just as important for preservation as the guidelines, codes and ordinance that govern it. The biggest fight I am facing right now in my district is the destruction of the more modest homes from the 60's and 70's for Suburban-type McMansions. I don't think it sustainable and I personally think that homes like that don't belong in our downtown if you were to see what else is here. Anyways, I am sure the issues I deal with are not unique to my locale, but would be an interesting research topic. May I suggest a reading that I used in my thesis to explain the local gov/planners role in HP...A Richer Heritage, edited by Robert E. Stipe, Chapter 4.

    Best of Luck!
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    and yes, you need a degree to be a designer.

    one of my biggest pet peeves is when home owner sor real estate brokers claim they "designed" a house, or when management claims they designed their office. i always jump on this opportunty to be as inquisitive as possible to put them on the spot.

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