‘What skills are needed in urban design?’ was a key question on the table during the latest workshop. Although a comprehensive list of skills did not result from the workshop (perhaps a further workshop is needed to produce this list) a number of general skills related themes emerged: creativity, deduction, collaboration, communication and continuing with one’s education (after formalised studies).
What I gleaned from the presentations was that:
• At The University of Melbourne, urban design is considered multi-disciplinary and that there should be no boundaries to one’s work. The latter point referring to ‘pushing the envelope’ and/or going beyond the status quo.
• RMIT University (which has the distinction of teaching urban design scholarship in two different schools of the University) focuses on written expression (ie words) and evidence to support one’s urban design visioning in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies (GUSS). While in the School of Architecture and Design their commencing program will be design-based and will employ creative expression to produce outcomes.
• Deakin University utilises the ‘pen’ to overcome communication barriers or, in other words, employs the use of hand illustration (among other techniques) to communicate design intent between parties and break down barriers.
Another point of difference between the three institutions is that RMIT University (where urban design is taught in GUSS) and the University of Melbourne’s programs are accredited by the Planning Institute of Australia. This in itself is an interesting dimension to the teaching of urban design as the accreditation of these programs revolves around urban planning. (As a side note to this planning dimension of the respective programs the Australian Research Council classifies Urban Design as a subcategory of Urban and Regional Planning. See, http://www.arc.gov.au/pdf/ANZSRC_FOR_codes.pdf.)
In the face of rapid urban change, RMIT University has launched a new Master of Urban Design to help address the critical issues facing cities locally and globally. Urban Design at RMIT, which is now open for applications for the July mid-year intake, focuses on establishing innovative techniques for design and practice, advancing the role of design in shaping the future form and performance of cities.
The program has an international approach, with students travelling to Vietnam and Spain for intensive studios. Smart urban design is the key to confronting the critical issues affecting cities in Australia and around the world. Issues such as climate change, population shifts, contemporary workplaces, and transformations in industry, technology and infrastructure are all having a great impact on urban living.
The Master of Urban Design has been developed to help designers creatively integrate their expertise with other urban disciplines. With more people living in cities than ever before, approaching urban design innovatively and promoting alternative models for future city-building is vital.
The Master of Urban Design program at RMIT provides a studio-based, multi-disciplinary environment to engage the issues confronting cities through project-based work. Projects are curated around key sites of urban change locally and globally, and engage with the professional and community networks invested in their future. Intensive studios take place at RMIT’s campuses and locations in Melbourne, Barcelona and Ho Chi Minh City. The two/four-year (full time/part time) program aims to nurture designers who are engaged in innovative approaches to their practice.