Guest Blogger #501, Entry #1148, May 4, 2012
Just because you love painting your walls, sifting through piles of tiles, and adding accessories to a living room doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to tackle the lofty tasks associated with a career in community planning. And yet, a person who has acute organizational skills, attention to detail, an ability to see the bigger picture of a layout, and a marked sense of both form and function, urban planning could provide an excellent outlet for both the creative and technical skills you embody. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than simply selecting the color of brick for a building or deciding which plants would make for the most beautiful playground. The field of urban planning could require a lot more general knowledge than the average amateur decorator possesses.
Consider the challenges and rewards
For starters, the urban planning industry is extremely challenging. It’s not like you’re starting with a blank slate and planning the layout of an entire city. For the most part that has already been done, and the truth is that even a city that had a basic framework to begin with is bound to grow and develop in unanticipated ways. So as an urban planner approaching a project you will have to deal with a lot of pre-existing structures (not to mention infrastructure). This is design at a whole different level and not everyone is cut out for the vast amount of web-weaving and untangling required.
On the other hand, such a career can provide you with incredible opportunities for continued learning, constant challenge, and corresponding personal growth. For example, you will need knowledge of all levels of urban design in order to ensure that any changes or additions you make to a cityscape will work with what is already there (and potentially even what is to come). You must first and foremost be aware of the tenets, goals, and challenges of urban design. But you also need to understand how the urban landscape operates, with buildings, transportation, electrical and water grids, and even people all overlapping and functioning as a seamless unit. And then there are restrictions based on economic, political, and environmental factors. In short, you must be a jack of all trades to some extent if you want to become a professional urban planner.
Of course, your real objective is to create a space that is needed in a community, do so in a way that is advantageous for all, and ensure that the goals of all parties are met in the end. This means that in most cases you will be something of a glorified mediator, so you can add an emphasis in communications to your checklist of skills to hone. And don’t forget the importance of mathematics; at the root of this profession is a propensity for spatial awareness and a certain ability to “Tetris” the urban landscape in order to complete your projects. Whew! That’s a lot to take in. But with a strong desire to leave your mark on the public spaces that we all enjoy, and an urban planning degree under your belt, you can take your desire to design to the next level and have a fulfilling career that is truly worthy of your unique talents.
For more career ideas on Stagetecture, click here.