Careers – Dream of Building a City? Be an Urban Designer!

What is urban design?

Since early man first settled, urban design has existed in some or the other form, though the term was finally coined in the 20th century. It’s a mix of landscape design, city planning and architecture. It is about designing and planning almost every aspect about a city. An urban designer needs to incorporate streets, buildings, landscape, public parks, transportation system, drainage, roads and every other aspect related to a city that you can think of. The task is Herculean!

These professionals have to balance both aesthetics and functionality. For example, while the city or the town that they’re working on, needs to have public parks and beautiful landscape, like artificial lakes etc; the city also needs to be functional and easy to navigate for people.

Similarly, while street furniture like benches, water coolers, dumpsters, street signs and lights are important from the furnishing point of view, they are also important from the point of view of providing people with civic amenities.

What does an urban designer do?

Most modern professionals in this career help in planning and upgrading the existing cities and towns. They are usually called upon by the officials when the population of a city increases beyond what can sustain on the current amenities and resources.

Problems like traffic congestion, pedestrian congestion, road side encroachments and housing shortage or dilapidation of generation – old houses are usually what calls for the immediate attentions of city planning officials and eventually the services of these experts. Some other such problems could be sewage and waste disposal systems, school shortage, natural resource distribution which needs pipelines, like water and gas supplies.

The first step for an urban designer is to meet city officials and discuss all the necessary changes. This will also include discussing the budgets as well as the concerns of the current residents into consideration.

After this they usually look at the plans and designs for the existing plan of the city. This enables them to figure out what changes can be brought about. One of the key things for them to keep in mind is that they want minimal intervention in order to not disturb the current daily life of residents. They also meet landscape designers and architects in this phase to work out a plan for the new city design. After all this, they will usually make initial sketches and then they will use designing software to prepare final plans which are very detailed and include drawings for every aspect.

Where does an urban designer work?

Typically they work with large architectural firms or with real estate developers. In developed countries, a lot of city governments also retain individual professionals as consultants.

What are the educational requirements for a career in Urban Design?

The most common expectations in terms of degree for a career in this field is at least a Bachelor’s degree in urban design or city planning. It’s a four-year course and is typically good enough for an entry-level position. However, many experts usually pursue a Master’s degree and also gradually grow their education through cross-skill development like degrees in energy-efficient design, or eco-friendly, environment-centric design etc. It is expected that aspiring urban designers will have to take several courses in design, computer software and math. They will also need to take some courses in real estate law, ecology, architecture and landscape architecture.