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Thread: Nuts and bolts urban design classes

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Nuts and bolts urban design classes

    Given a choice, what types of "nuts and bolts" urban design classes would you find most interesting and / or needed?
    Last edited by smccutchan1; 16 Mar 2010 at 9:54 PM. Reason: Thought the title needed a little more explanation

  2. #2
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    I find any classes that can give you the skills to render or hand draw are helpful. I also took classes on how to use some software programs to illustrate your ideas, such as photoshop, illustrator, etc, that I found helpful.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    usually any class labeled "studio" is very effective
    you will enjoy experiences in design, modeling, rendering, presentation, group work and latenight dance parties. What more can you learn.
    (except the financial knowledge required to actually realize the project)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by vxw View post
    usually any class labeled "studio" is very effective
    I strongly disagree with this. Programs slap on the word studio to refer to anything. It just means an environment with hands on experience and that could mean anything from sitting at a desk creating "stuff" to a neighborhood studio working with different groups of people.

    I think the following should be required urban design coursework, not just electives.

    1. Building Materials/Technology: although this is usually through an architecture or civil engineering program not urban design. This helps urban designers understand the building materials they are working with, the components of a frame versus concrete construction.
    2. Site Design: 1-3 courses with heavy emphasis on soils (you can't just build anything anywhere), stormwater management (to understand surface runoff and erosion), as well and a BRIEF introduction to grading and irrigation. A separate course could focus on siting buildings on a site, spatial relationships between buildings, using massing to arrange spaces, as well as parcel/lot design.
    3. Road Design: traditional courses are usually found in transportation engineering or civil engineering programs. I think a new type of course needs to be created specifically for the urban designer that introduces street hierarchies, widths, turn radii, and curb cuts. On-street and off-street parking needs to be included where designers work with angled parking, parallel parking, perpendicular parking, parking islands, drive aisles, etc.
    4. Plant Material: traditional courses are usually found in landscape architecture and horticultural programs. Again, I think a new type of course needs to be created for the urban designers that affordsa basic understanding of canopy trees/shading, spacing, and buffering, as well as how to put together a basic plant palette. Most plant courses are tree/shrub identification courses that focus more on the characteristics of the species, but do not include HOW they are used in the landscape. For example, Osage orange has thorns, mulberries stain sidewalks, female Gingkos stink, and black walnut secretes sticky goo called juglans. Emphasis should also be placed on plant substutions, methods of preserving existing trees, identifying trees and shurbs that are shade resistant, salt tolerant, availability (through nurseries), and intersection visibility.
    5. Site Impact Analysis: studying the site design alternatives and CLEARLY assessing the benefits and detriments of each alternative. Everything about the physical design of the site is included in this longer form of a SWOT analysis. This would include, but not be limited to, traffic circulation, pedestrian access, noise, glare, architectural design, street furniture, plant material, maintaining existing vistas, massing of buildings, EMT access, slopes, flooding, etc.
    6. Graphics Communication: this would include everything from typeface to size/spacing of text in a document, tabloid size, presentation boards, and even billboards. Colors, hatching, cross-hatching, dashed lines, leader lines, and dimensioned text need to be dissected. How much text should be on a board (6-10 words a bullet, perhaps?). How do you show the same data with an aerial underneath? Calibrating plotters (what you see on the screen is usually much brighter than what is plotted, and you need special ink to plot fluorescents). Always assume one reader is color blind and prepare graphics to read well whether in color or black/white.
    7. Public Speaking/Meeting Facilitation: designers need to communicate visually, but they need to convince through their words. I'm not a huge fan of the design charette (because it is way to drawn out, no pun intended). However, this can be anything from answering calls over the phone, explaining ideas to residents through workshops/neighborhood meetings, etc.
    8. Writing: this is a key challenge for many designers. I see many planning colleagues fall entirely into the design camp or the writing camp but rarely straddle both. My writing style on Cyburbia is windy and verbose. In stark contrast, I use a much more succinct and simple style when writing planning documents, whether it is a text to a master plan or design guidelines. Although, too simple can “sound” too choppy.
    9. Political Process: designers not only need to understand the process to approve urban design projects but also need to develop skills of negotiation, leverage, and coalition building to ensure their projects meet the needs of the residents. As part of this course, I would create projects in fiscal impact analysis/development impact analysis as well as capital improvement plans (CIPs).

    Additional electives could include bid writing, marketing (with empahsis on design firms), best management practices and site-specific design (rural site planning, coastal planning, bikeway planning, conservation planning, site planning in water-scare areas, plazas/park design, subdivision design, etc.). As a practicing designer, I am not a huge fan of pushing agendas. New urbanism, LEED, TNDs, TODs, pedestrian-focused development, etc should be treated as secondary components, to be used only when there is enough public consensus on these tools (see previous posts).


    Hope this helps-
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    This seems to have run its course so thanks for the input, especially nrschmid.

  6. #6
    Cal Poly SLO's CRP curriculum covers points 2 through 9 (listed by Nrschmid) in their urban design and community planning studio courses. You might want to check out their curriculum; look for CRP 201, 202, 203, 341, 410, 411. Those are the second, third, and fourth year urban design and community planning studio/labs.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Cal Poly SLO's CRP curriculum covers points 2 through 9 (listed by Nrschmid) in their urban design and community planning studio courses. You might want to check out their curriculum; look for CRP 201, 202, 203, 341, 410, 411. Those are the second, third, and fourth year urban design and community planning studio/labs.
    I'm thinking of going to the MCRP at Cal Poly. I noticed as you pointed out that the BCRP is a good preparation for urban design but what about the grad level studios?
    with already 2 years of undergrad planning and design I was wondering if the community planning studio courses would be preparation for professional urban design?

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