There are three procedural types: total urban design where a single developer-design team carries out a project from beginning to end; all-of-apiece design where one team creates a conceptual design and writes design guidelines for the pieces of the project to be provided by different developers and their designers; and plug-in design which focuses on the design and building of infrastructure elements as a catalyst for further development. A third assumption is that many urban designers work in cultures other than their own (in terms of ways of life and ways of property development). Implicit in this assumption is that designing today takes place in a post-modern world. Many of our current paradigms, however, predate it. It has also to be accepted, however reluctantly, that urban designers work, and will work, based on a set of known paradigms. These paradigms have been developed within different intellectual traditions: Empiricist, Rationalist and Pragmatic that need to be understood. A fourth assumption accepts the reality that students want concise to-the point educational programs. Finally, it is assumed that the best way to learn is to teach.
Any program has to be tightly designed and available to full-time and part-time students. Much of the teaching has to be within a seminar format – something that can contradict the need for compactness of teaching – for learning to take place. Moreover students do much of the teaching themselves which is not exactly efficient. It is, however, more important for them to learn how to learn than to cover much ground. Students must be familiar not only with the existing paradigms and how and why they were developed, but also their history of application and their perceived successes or failures within different climatic, cultural and legal contexts. They must be able to recognise how to deal with changing situations and to deal with new problems as they emerge. In designing to solve them urban designers need to recognize the generalities – the paradigmatic qualities – and the peculiarities of their work.
There are important differences in designing (and in intellectual climate) amongst countries whose constitutions (and thus the rights of individuals and communities) are based on, say, English Common Law, the Napoleonic code and Roman Dutch law. Urban designers have to understand the differences between problem driven and paradigmatic approaches to designing and the implementation techniques (eg financing and legal procedures) available to them to bring designs to fruition in various political settings.
The UNSW program
The design of the MUDD program is based on: studio experiences that range from dealing with generic designs, to the problems of Sydney, to international (particularly East Asian) concerns assuming a variety of ideological settings; case studies of urban design; and supporting courses in property development and law. The program emphasises learning by teaching, doing and reflecting. First hand knowledge is important, so an international field study/studio/workshop experience is included to supplement theoretical knowledge and local experiences. Ultimately small programs depend heavily on the backgrounds of their teaching staff and the nature of their students. The UNSW program is biased by the extensive American and Asian, as well as Australian experiences, of its instructors. Most of the students are international, too, primarily from the East Asian region but with a sprinkling of North Americans and Europeans. Australians students are a noticeable minority.