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An icebreaker on the Urban Design course

Being an MArch student, I was grateful to find out that urban design was one of the electives I could pursue. Striving to expand my horizon beyond the built environment, I was immediately drawn to the idea of learning about urban design and how I can apply the knowledge to my design projects to achieve the best of both worlds. Throughout architectural pedagogy, the design aspect of our projects had always been of utmost importance and though this is undeniable, all projects have a site and all sites have potential to be improved, especially with the principles of urban design, an area which my school had not pushed. As I intend to remain in London, one of the major cities of the world, I believe that my newfound knowledge of the field will certainly make me a useful member in practice.

During my first semester of urban design, I wil concede that my knowledge of the field was scarce. Though I was aware of the main principles such as public spaces, human-centric design, communities to name a few, I had not truly realized the depth in which they go into, for instance the psychological or emotional effects of a mere square and how its uniformity can directly impact happiness. My first project was the Ouseburn redevelopment, where I transformed an existing car park on the lower Ouseburn valley into a bustling pocket neighbourhood with private and public spaces and a variety of housing typologies each with its own unique attribute, whether it be through the design itself or the location. A model was also required of us where we would slot it in the overall group model. The project was most certainly not a particularly easy one, however, I enjoyed it as it had put my collaboration skills to the test and got to see how our site models were combined.

This semester, we are reading and discussing major issues in the field from a variety of disciplines, architecture, urban design, town planning, urban studies, geography, and sociology and I believe the structure of the module will permit me to understand theoretical debates on urban space and urban design. It is in this module that I believe most of my knowledge of the field will derive from, as we are learning about the origins and major pioneers of the movement through engaging discussions and presentations.

Another area of interest I’d like to point out is the second module I am undertaking, principles and practice of urban design, in which we are tasked with using the urban design blog to reflect on lectures. Such is a method I have never used, though I do believe that blogs are an innovative approach to learning and developing as an individual, broadening my skillset with improved research and writing skills, collaboration and even portfolio development. Though there aren’t any design projects for stage 6 MArch students this year, I am nevertheless satisfied with what I have been offered this year as it is a rather different, albeit useful way of expanding my knowledge and professional skills at the same time. Aside from that, it is also interesting to know the opinions of others in their blog posts and I look forward to using it on a regular.

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School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Telephone: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk