What even *is* Urban Planning?

So you are thinking about what to do after you finish your degree in architecture. Should you go into practice, should you look for a masters' course, do you want to start a venture into an allied field like animation or UI/UX design or product design? The short answer is that there is no right answer to this. Age is on your side and you should definitely experiment and open yourself up to all kinds of learning.


Like we learn in architecture classes right? Your learning never ends in this field.


But while you go through multiple resources and research different avenues, you come across this term - urban planning.


Most architecture courses in India at bachelors level have a limited exposure to the realm of urban planning, if at all. Urban design, too, is dealt with on a very superficial level, with one or two studio projects focusing on street redesign and aesthetics. While it serves as an introduction to the field, a masters' degree in Urban Planning is quite different from the exposure one gets at the bachelors of Architecture level.


For one, it is no longer a bachelors' level course - and you have to step up your academics. It is no joke - masters courses often have a lot of research and academic writing. These skills are paramount to making you a better writer - articulate, concise and original are the key to good academic writing as well.


Urban Planning is a scale of spatial planning which deals with development and land use, and its allied fields of infrastructure, environment, resource planning and quality of living. It is quite interdisciplinary in nature, with modules of economics, financial planning, legislations, spatial planning and remote sensing analysis. As an academic course, it busts open your outlook towards what is even possible in the realm of design and planning. How legislations work, what policies are used to direct funding for projects, how city level services are planned, how remote sensing and dateline data is crucial to study large areas over a period of time - these are themes and topics almost never dealt with at the bachelors' level.


This course is hard work, but it truly opens your eyes to what actually goes into planning urban areas and drafting the policies and regulations that architects finally use in their designs. Ever wondered why some areas have height limits? Or who decides where Transferable Development Rights are applicable? Who decides how land rates change with new infrastructure? Planners do.


Now, don't be intimidated. It sounds scary. It's academia, it's supposed to sound difficult and important to the layman. These are all skills you will pick up as a student, and the truth is, everyone picks it up. It is not the simplest, but it opens your scope towards many new softwares and workflows.


GIS softwares, python, multiple modelling softwares like EPANET are used for higher grade simulations, data analysis and inferencing. Again, you will learn them as you study, there is nothing to be really worried about.


What is the least discussed part of urban planning education is the statistics. You thought you left mathematics for good when you chose architecture, right? Wrong. A lot of planning starts with data collection and statistics. For example, how do you know how many samples of surveys do you need to justify your study? No, floating a google form and begging your friends to fill it just won't work anymore. In further posts, the basics of statistics and sampling used in planning will be explained to the best of the author's understanding.


So, passionate about the bicycle culture in Europe? Transport planners design those. How about homelessness and the housing crisis? Urban planners work on rent policy and land allocation for housing projects. What about environmental causes such as forest degradation? Environmental planners, of course. Resilience and planning for the climate crisis? Climate scientists, and urban planners. Planning is versatile in that sense - it looks at the big picture and the long term.


If you find yourself leaning more towards the larger perspective and broader issues, definitely look into further resources of what constitutes planning and how planners work at multiple scales from communities to the global level to guide the world to be a better place.


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