The Question – Answer 2-5

April 4, 2008 at 4:41 pm 2 comments

In response to Jesse’s question:

Mark Holland recommends:

– Urban geography or geography of any type
– Economics of any sort
– Governance / comparative government / political science of any typ

Martin Thomas suggests:

Firstly the 15 year old boy/girl needs a few extra English courses, especially report writing, as he /she will be compiling proposals and writing reports for public and municipal councils PLUS get involved with a debating group as public speaking is a great plus as many people today can not stand up in front of folk and talk. If you wish to take this up a notch from basics…

Next 3 years: summer jobs as a “go-for” in an office. Example in a planning department, environmental firm or an urban design /engineering company
University years: planning courses, environmental courses, writing courses, plus any urban design courses, and to top it off a course on the municipal act now known as the community act.

Doug Paterson, UBC, says:

I belive that urban design is an interdisciplinary activity; it requires the knowledge and talents of many different professionals. As such, an individual can come to the table to discuss what makes a “better designed” city from urban economics; sociology; ecology; architecture, landscape architecture and planning; philosophy, etc.

To reduce urban design to the design a pleasant streets, pretty plazas, etc, is little more than a confused, simplistic version of the role of the landscape architects in the discussion – something most landscape architects understand but others apparently don’t.
(This is not a rant)

Lisa Berg, Senior Land Use & Community Planner, has the following to say:

I would recommend looking through the course requirements for the various university programs offered. Look at the prerequisites for first getting into the university, and then look at the specific courses tailored for the urban design/planning program. Core high school topics to match up could include: geography, economics, political science, English, computer studies (GIS), social studies, English, law, etc. It all boils down to having the necessary prerequisites to getting into the planning school in the first place. Once you’re in university, you really start tailoring it there. If possible, attend a career day at a local university or college.

Depending on the type of degree you are thinking of pursuing, you may want to focus on sciences for a BSc (Math, biology, chemistry, geography, ecology) or for a BA you may need things like Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, English, Canadian Gov’t and law, etc. I took a variety of all of these at both the college level (first year university transfer type science courses) and then was able to move right into the planning program at my chosen university. In high school I focused on English, French, Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Art, Social Studies and Western Civilization. I ended up with a BSc in Environmental Planning from UNBC, a diploma in GIS from the College of New Caledonia, and the SFU Urban Design diploma. If you are looking specifically at urban design, you should also look at taking graphics courses, art classes or other design or drawing courses. I found having a bit of an art background helped in the planning design courses I

Other tips that I found very helpful during my studies were being able to type well & being a good writer (lots of essays & take home exams to write in university!), being a good reader (lots & lots of reading!) and to be
comfortable speaking in front of an audience (lots of presentations!) and group settings (lots of group work!). Being a good presenter and being able to get up in front of a crowd at a public meeting or a public hearing and delivering information is essential in the real world. If you have a fear of public speaking, conquering it now will benefit you tremendously in the future!! As well, when hiring new planners, we look for people that are confident, good writers, good public speakers and know how to work as part of a team.
Good luck!


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The Question – Answer (1) The Question – Answers 6-9

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mark Hornell  |  April 17, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I would echo pretty well all the of the suggestions made to you so far Jesse, with the suggestion also that you try doing some designs and plans for yourself just for fun. I had the good fortune of having a great teacher in Grade 7, who let me work with another boy to design a new town for the head of Bute Inlet of all places. It was great fun, combined geography, art, and science in one project, and kindled an interest that has led me to a very satisfying career and a lifelong passion. When you get around to reading some of those key books, I’d add the following to the list: Oscar Newman’s “Community of Interest”, Hans Blumenfeld’s book of essays “The Modern Metropolis”, Ian McHarg’s “Design with Nature”, Kevin Lynch’s “Good City Form”, and William H. Whyte’s “City”. And as a corrective, read everything you can by Ivan Illich and Wendell Berry, especially the latter’s “Unsettling of America”. Planners and urban designers run the great risk of being seduced by our own dreams. These last two writers are a great help in getting us to think critically about ourselves and what we are doing in and to the world.

  • 2. Norlinda  |  May 20, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Is it too late to start a career in urban design? I’ve always had an interest but most urban design programs were too competitive to get into when I was in university.


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