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Thread: Need advice: study architecture or planning?

  1. #1
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    Need advice: study architecture or planning?

    Hey everyone! My name is Andy, an 19 year old with a fresh interest in urban/city planning. I'm new to this planning forum (as a matter of fact, this is my very first message), and I'd like to start off with asking for some personal advice.

    In many years I've had great interest in architecture, but recently my interest in urban planning has grown quite a bit, and has almost surpassed my interest in architecture. I'm beginning at a university next year, so I'm in a great dilemma weather to choose to study architecture or urban planning. Now I know that it is naturally a very personal subject, but I feel that some advice from professionals and students out there might clear my mind.

    So if any of you guys out there has the time or will to write a bit about their experiences with urban planning, the career opportunities, pros and cons and such, I'd be more than thankful

    P.S. I forgot to mention that I live in Copenhagen, Denmark.

  2. #2
    Velkommen til Cyburbia, andy0550. Min mor er fra Husum og jeg laer og tale lidt dansk.

    (I used to be fairly fluent, but you lose it if you don't use it, eh?)

    Anyway, why not take your first year to try a little of both and see what you like best?
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  3. #3
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    Tak skal du have But absolutely true, you don't use it, you lose it. I myself am fra Søborg, so it isn't that far from Husum, as a matter of fact I used to study in Nørre Gymnasium in Husum/Mørkhøj if you know where that is

    Anyway, the problem is that I currently have a free-year since I'm done with high-school and I could of course start studying either architecture or urban planning and see how it goes, but the problem is that I really can't afford the time waste. And by time waste I mean that it would be a waste of an entire year of my life if I made a choice with one of the studies and then found out that it ain't my thing. So I prefer making the right choice at the first pick

    Btw, do you study/work with urban planning yourself? I'd be more than glad to hear about your experiences with it if so

  4. #4
    Try to take intense studio architecture classes and see how well you do. Anyone can learn architectural techniques such as drafting and design, yet architecture is best to pursue if you are genuinely passionate about it and have an inner calling for it.
    Also, architecture students are swamped with work and are often sleep deprived. Once they graduate and come into the real world, they are faced with the harsh realities of a market that does not want a Frank Geary structure, rather an identical version of what the client has seen in a magazine etc. So, architecture in school is different from market needs. For the amount of hours architects put into a project, and the time pressures they deal with, architects do not get paid well. Can you handle all of this?

  5. #5
    The field of architecture historically includes urban design/planning. So if what excites you about planning is the urban design aspect of it, then just stick with architecture. Most urban design work occurs in architecture firms, and if you don't have an architecture degree, but a planning degree, it will be harder to get a job as an urban designer.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Have to heartily agree with that. If the design aspect is what you like, study the architecture. My friend went very easily from architecture to planning (with a consulting firm) - the reverse would not be true. Urban planning is geography to me...I would be a terrible designer or architect but have been happy and successful as a municipal planner....reviewing the designs of folks like you. Good luck to you, Cophenhagen!

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    The field of architecture historically includes urban design/planning. So if what excites you about planning is the urban design aspect of it, then just stick with architecture. Most urban design work occurs in architecture firms, and if you don't have an architecture degree, but a planning degree, it will be harder to get a job as an urban designer.
    Quote Originally posted by ursus View post
    Have to heartily agree with that. If the design aspect is what you like, study the architecture. Urban planning is geography to me...I would be a terrible designer or architect but have been happy and successful as a municipal planner....reviewing the designs of folks like you. Good luck to you, Cophenhagen!
    I disagree with both these statements. As an planner working in a multi-disciplinary firm, there is a great contrast between architecture and urban design. Architects focus on the design of buildings, interiors, and the inner-workings of how the building functions (i.e. placement of door frames, location of driveways, widths of windows, room sizes, exterior design, specs, etc.). Unfortunately, the majority of architects I have come across usually have a hard time looking at the bigger picture. Planning is not geography. Sorry. It truly isn't. Planning is viewing the developed world and how it functions between housing, infrastructure, commercial, industrial, recreation, open space and the environment. It isn't just some silly GIS mapping and processing (and it pains me when fellow planners simply regulate themselves as "reviewers". Any joe nobody can review plans against adopted ordinances. A well trained planner can look at a plan, review if it fits, and can demonstrate positive changes to a site plan or design to make the built environment better for the benefit of a municipality.)

    As a planner I can write ordinances and documents, but I can also demonstrate through design how those ordinance will affect the built environment, and the consequences the rules and regulations have and how to modify those for a greater benefit.

    As to your question, what do you like about architecture? What do you like about urban planning? ToPlanismyFuture hit the nail on the head that architecture is vastly different in the real world versus the studio lab. We have a saying in our office about our planning team: "The Urban Planning Studio gets to create the dream, the architects are regulated to implementing it".

    Take it from a person who at your aged loved architecture but didn't know the reasons why. When I finally realized i was more an urban design guy than a design a building dude, I made the transition from architecture student to planner.

    Good Luck.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally posted by ToPlanIsMyFuture View post
    Try to take intense studio architecture classes and see how well you do. Anyone can learn architectural techniques such as drafting and design, yet architecture is best to pursue if you are genuinely passionate about it and have an inner calling for it.
    Also, architecture students are swamped with work and are often sleep deprived. Once they graduate and come into the real world, they are faced with the harsh realities of a market that does not want a Frank Geary structure, rather an identical version of what the client has seen in a magazine etc. So, architecture in school is different from market needs. For the amount of hours architects put into a project, and the time pressures they deal with, architects do not get paid well. Can you handle all of this?
    You're absolutely right about the harsh truth about the architectural profession, and the fact that an architect's creativity is often suppressed by commercial tendencies is yet another of the reasons why I'm moving away from architecture. Also, it is easier to get a job as an urban planner isn't it? With the financial crisis, here in Denmark, one of the most unemployed professions is currently architecture, and unless some financial miracle suddenly occurs, it seems that this tendency will continue in the following years, possibly leaving me unemployed in the future.

    I must say that I'm more interested in urban planning than urban design, but this depends. As an urban planner, can I for example set design demands, such as "All new flat-roof buildings in this area must be built with a "green roof" system", or set other similar demands such as requirements for LEED-standard buildings, etc.? And as an urban planner, you also decide WHICH architectural projects will be the winning (and chosen) ones right?

    Thanks for all the responses I appreciate your help guys

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by andy0550 View post

    I must say that I'm more interested in urban planning than urban design, but this depends. As an urban planner, can I for example set design demands, such as "All new flat-roof buildings in this area must be built with a "green roof" system", or set other similar demands such as requirements for LEED-standard buildings, etc.? And as an urban planner, you also decide WHICH architectural projects will be the winning (and chosen) ones right?
    If this is what you want to do, then i recommend either and urban planning course with an emphasis on design and policy writing/implementation or a landscape architect. The ladder is a great choice because you learn the core principals of urban design, but have some solid credentials to back you up (especially during economic recessions like this). You can specialize in urban planning, but than jog circles over urban designs due to some more technical aspects you learn as a landscape architect. Good Luck.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    As to your question, what do you like about architecture? What do you like about urban planning? ToPlanismyFuture hit the nail on the head that architecture is vastly different in the real world versus the studio lab. We have a saying in our office about our planning team: "The Urban Planning Studio gets to create the dream, the architects are regulated to implementing it".

    Take it from a person who at your aged loved architecture but didn't know the reasons why. When I finally realized i was more an urban design guy than a design a building dude, I made the transition from architecture student to planner.

    Good Luck.
    What I like about architecture, is the aesthetics within the profession and the study, but as my interest for the architectural has grown, I have also learned and understood, that despite architecture being a creative and artistic profession, it also includes, as you mention, the planning of door placements, interior arrangement, etc., which, let's face it, is a much less glamorous side of architecture. I have also come to realize, that the aesthetic side of the architectural study is nothing without the functional, which I have (yet) little understanding of, and unfortunately also little interest in.

    I am a person who strives to do as much as I can to create a better society (especially from an environmental point of view), and I feel that I can so with much greater effect as an urban planner, than an architect (this being one of the most important reasons for my growing interest in the urban planning study). Am I right when I state that an urban planner can affect society on a larger scale than an architect?

    And I would also like to ask you guys if you could tell a little bit about the everyday life of an urban planner - what do you do on a workday, etc. And also how much mathematics are involved with the study (perhaps also physics and chemistry? - thinking environmental and energy planning). I would appreciate any general comments from students and professional planners concerning the study Once again, thank you guys!

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by andy0550 View post
    What I like about architecture, is the aesthetics within the profession and the study, but as my interest for the architectural has grown, I have also learned and understood, that despite architecture being a creative and artistic profession, it also includes, as you mention, the planning of door placements, interior arrangement, etc., which, let's face it, is a much less glamorous side of architecture. I have also come to realize, that the aesthetic side of the architectural study is nothing without the functional, which I have (yet) little understanding of, and unfortunately also little interest in.

    I am a person who strives to do as much as I can to create a better society (especially from an environmental point of view), and I feel that I can so with much greater effect as an urban planner, than an architect (this being one of the most important reasons for my growing interest in the urban planning study). Am I right when I state that an urban planner can affect society on a larger scale than an architect?

    And I would also like to ask you guys if you could tell a little bit about the everyday life of an urban planner - what do you do on a workday, etc. And also how much mathematics are involved with the study (perhaps also physics and chemistry? - thinking environmental and energy planning). I would appreciate any general comments from students and professional planners concerning the study Once again, thank you guys!

    Hi andy

    Just one little thing

    You have to realise that the planning systems and approaches of viewing planning and urban design vary across the world. It may also be good if you contact local planning/architecture firms and universities to see what exactly the professionals do.

    It'd also be helpful if you can explain what you mean when you say you like the design aspect of the profession. Are you talking about reviewing design plans? Or drawing conceptual land use schemes? Or master planning a new settlement for 10,000 folks?

    Hope this helps.

    cheers!

  12. #12
    You can be an architect and specialize in urban design. It will make you more marketable to both the architecture firms and more urban design-oriented firms. Again, most urban design work is done in architecture firms, where having a BArch or MArch degree is more valuable than a planning degree.

    There are a select few people with just planning degrees that get to do urban design, but they are fewer than those with arch degrees who do urban design.

    In either case, in order to be more competitive you'd probably want two degrees, maybe an undergrad in planning and then an MArch, or the other way around if you can get into a BArch program, say at Cal Poly, SLO.

  13. #13
    I am a person who strives to do as much as I can to create a better society (especially from an environmental point of view), and I feel that I can so with much greater effect as an urban planner, than an architect (this being one of the most important reasons for my growing interest in the urban planning study). Am I right when I state that an urban planner can affect society on a larger scale than an architect?
    You'll have to dispense with this kind of reasoning. Who affects society on a large scale? Its impossible to pick a college degree and just assume you'll be in a better position to do so. Life is more complicated and variable than that. For example, the people who probably affected some of the most important change to urban environments for the 20th century weren't planners, architects, or even politicians. They were journalists and writers like Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, and Sinclair Lewis. Does this mean you should go get a journalism degree? No, not necessarily. There's no guarantee you'd be able to make any difference at all in an industry that's being completely turned upside down.

    My advice is to find work you like doing, regardless of whether it fits into your larger aspirations of making a difference. Everyone wants to make a difference, and holding that as a motivator is a good thing, but when it comes down to it, what matters is your ability to do some kind of work day in and day out, without getting burned out.

    But maybe this isn't the right kind of advice for you. How could a young person possibly know with certainty what they want to do with the next 15 years of their education and career? Just pick something, and that something is bound to give way to other, more appealing avenues. And that's life.

  14. #14
    The gist of what most people are telling you is to go out into the real world and try out a few things, which I agree with. Find an internship in an architectural firm and a planning department to test out your ideas about the world. Keep your idealism, but make sure you know what you're getting into by shadowing professionals.

    We all have normative ideas and want to change the world. Degrees don't prepare you for changing the world. Degrees make you more competitive in the job market by adding credentials on paper, and they familiarize you with professional theories, jargon and practices. The days where Universities create out-of-the-box thinkers are over.

    Real world planning and architecture depends on many factors, such as economics, politics etc. Sometimes it won't be about how great your work is, where you graduated from, what your degree is in, but who you know.

    I am not saying don't get higher education, I'm just saying know that a degree merely gets you a couple initial interviews, and then you are on your own to change the world You might even be able to change it now

  15. #15
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    Absolutely true guys I seem to have formulated my earlier post rather poorly. You see, it matters a great deal to me to make a difference in some way, but of course I'm willing to do it through a way I also enjoy - thus my interest in urban planning and architecture. If my sole goal was to make a difference, I could have chosen a completely different path, such as working with NGO's and such, but this is my area of interest, so it is something I indeed like doing

    And don't get me wrong, I'm not stating that architects, politicians, etc. are necessarily always the ones making the greatest change in society. As a matter of fact, I believe that everyone, from a farmer to a president has great impact on society. The way my definition of "change in society" is meant to be understood, is in a physical sense, regarding urban environments and such. In other words, how cities are formed, and how these can function in with minimal environmental impact.

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