Hi Cyburbians -
Long story short - I have a BA in urban geography and anthropology, love urban form, landscapes, open-space linkages, transportation corridors but am looking at them as academic interests. I've thought about a Master of Urban Planning with a design focus but realize I don't know much about what the actual jobs and careers consist of behind the scenes. I have done a few info interviews, maybe will do an info session @ Humphrey Institute at which I'd like to pose essentially these same questions:
What if I find that I am at odds with strict interpretations of zoning and codes? What if end up feeling that I'm against what can seem like overreaching and entrenched regulations that tie up the hands of home owners, architects and builders? Could I still be a planner?
I basically believe in the "spirit" of a design intent and critical of overly literal "letter" of code enforcement. I am someone who personally believes noise ordinances should not be trump free speech (I grew up In Boston Ma where street bands are a part of the streetlife) I also think garage murals are not graffitti - I think they add to community and artist involvement.
If anybody has been to Mpls' West Bank there is a stalwart punk/student coffee shop called the Hard Times - an institution, open 23hrs a day,etc. I believe in uniqueness and one-of-a-kind elements within a cityscape. I would be very against any city regulators that tightened codes as a way of getting the Hard Times to go out of business (not saying this is their plan at all but they have tried before) and then proceed to makeover that stretch of street according to pre-set design guidelines. I accept slum-clearance as a good thing but equally skeptical of gentrification sometimes. I really don't like suburban attempts at pseudo-mainstreet master plans. Basically, this kind of slum/dive hang out is what many planners would want to clear out....but, in short I would defend this kind of diversity over another Panera bread in some cookie-cutter, albeit well planned strip in suburbia any day of the week. Could I still be a city planner?
Design guidelines for walkable, bikeable street bus/railcorridors are great (complete streets) - they create nodes of development, cohesiveness to a streetscape and better gathering spaces. On the other hand, I'm wary of their overuse - a blanket set of rules to homogenize areas that might be better off with minor street and sidewalk upgrades.
Are there opportunities within planning to affect development and design while having an underying skepticism of the regulatory arm of planning and the clumsy-ness of one-size fits all municipal rules?
I am interested in design, especially the connections among public spaces and how elements relate to each other in the urban fabric. Take for example the Gutherie Theatre in Mpls in a revitalized warehouse zone - all the attention was paid to the riverfront side and nobody was watching from the non-river side - the view is of a parking garage from Washington Ave. Have to consider all sides and all neighbors to be truly a great plan. Just like in Europe if you have a grand bldg you have create views from all points up to it instead of just developing your own square, isolated from the rest. Sounds more like L. Arch possibly? Do planners get in and affect at that kind if level?
Andrew / Mpls, MN