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Thread: Cold feet? Your opinion needed

  1. #1
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    Cold feet? Your opinion needed

    I grew up with several careers in mind. They centered around social studies or the arts. I had an interest in going to law school for civil rights, with an emphasis towards property rights for the traditionally disadvantaged and civil unions. I also had an interest towards psychology and politics.

    As a child, I was a pretty talented artist and took art classes here and there, and constantly drew for pleasure. I looked towards architecture as I hoped it would satisfy my creative side and I thought it would be rewarding to build different projects around the country. When I researched the field I was discouraged with the career path of your everyday architect, not to mention the need (though some projects vary) for a high mathematical skill set.

    This career dilemma followed me to college. I entered as an Undecided major, that semester, I declared Political-Science as my major, as it was the closest to Liberal Arts that my school offered. I began taking Architecture courses my sophomore year just to be certain. The work was occasionally tedious, but I did well. However, I still wasnít sold on solely being an architect so I finished my degree in Poli-Sci with a minor in Community Development this past December.

    Iím currently in the process of applying to Urban Planning schools with a Design concentration and though Iím confident that Planning is the direction I want to take over Law and Architecture, my general indecisiveness makes me question whether or not Iím settling for a compromise. Sigh, am I making a sound decision?

    please be gentle! I'm new to your site.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Planners come from a variety of backgrounds. After reading your post, I found alot of similarities to my own journey, but I never took my artist skill to the level you did by taking college level courses. I did take some design courses in my master's program however.

    One thing you need to realize is planning does not ofter involve much 'artistic' creativity, maybe the ability to review good design, architecture, landscaping, compatibility and colors. Planners tend to be the jack of all trades, yet the master of none and if you are ok with that then planning is something to consider. If you need to master one set of skills then go for architecture or law. Best of Luck!
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  3. #3
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    I am torn about the usefulness of having a design-oriented planning degree. Yes, good design is important in the built environment and yes, current planning trends (like form-based codes) are more design-oriented, but I don't see that the level of design skills that you would get in a planning school would be useful in the long run.

    The problem is that architects like Andres Duany have expanded into the planning space, for better or worse (my personal jury is still out). In addition, landscape architects are also heavily involved in planning and designing the built environment (in fact, at my last firm the official title of all the LAs was "land planner").

    Planning is a unique field that combines many disciplines into one profession. But, if you are truly interested in planning + design, I suggest you bite the bullet and get a dual planning/landscape architecture degree. At my alma mater (UMass) that would add one more year onto your studies. The pluses are that you will potentially have more job opportunities and you will have a deep understanding of technical design issues (not just be able to draw pretty pictures), the minus is the extra time it takes to get a dual degree and the extra effort needed to keep up with two professions. Also, not all planning schools have a dual degree program like this (though Cornell, UMass, UMich, and Penn do, and all are good schools).

    If I had it to do over, I would definetely take this path.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    I am biased but I find that the most useful planning-related degrees are the policy-focused ones. If you want to do urban design, get an architecture or urban design degree. If you want to manage a planning process that will result in better urban design, the most important skills are public policy, strategic planning, and project management. You just need enough design-related skills to know what people are talking about.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    I am biased but I find that the most useful planning-related degrees are the policy-focused ones. If you want to do urban design, get an architecture or urban design degree. If you want to manage a planning process that will result in better urban design, the most important skills are public policy, strategic planning, and project management. You just need enough design-related skills to know what people are talking about. [emphasis added]
    Yes.

    If you are designing something under poor code and weak policy, you may not be able to do the best for the community. and I'd expand on the emphasized part of the quote to add: you need enough design skill to be able to illustrate what you mean and make it understandable and actionable.

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