Could not download file: This paper is available to authorised users only.

EDUCATING THE CRITICAL URBAN PLANNER AND DESIGNER : A DIDACTICAL EXPERIENCE IN AN AREA OF PRACTICE

R. Rocco, R. Rooij

TU Delft (NETHERLANDS)
In the Department of Urbanism of the Faculty of Architecture of the TU Delft, both the academic staff and the students acknowledge the importance of upholding high academic standards in the educational program. However, because Urbanism is not a pure discipline, but one that draws inputs from a myriad of other disciplines, i.e. the social sciences, the physical sciences, and very particularly, design, a debate arises about the nature of the education offered.
This paper presents an experience in the MSc program in Urbanism where we believe these high academic standards are attained. The MSc program offers a specific methodological program during the whole MSc program, which is closely connected to the project-based education program, which takes the form of a Research and Design Studio. The aim of this paper is to describe on the one hand the aspirations we have for the Urbanism program with respect to those academic standards, and on the other the concrete outcomes of the methodological and R&D project program. We describe the academic skills students develop and the products they deliver. Therefore, this paper tackles (i) the relationship between research, planning and design by acknowledging that there are different value systems in the different fields of Urbanism, and (ii) the way we dealt with this issue in our MSc program.
At first sight, the relevant question to be answered is: ‘What kind of professional qualifications must be offered by the department of Urbanism in order to fulfil its goals and achieve high professional and academic standards?’ On closer inspection, we learn that the Department of Urbanism of the TU Delft offers a variety of qualifications in different areas that are relevant to the activity of spatial design and planning: urban design, landscape architecture, spatial planning and strategy, metropolitan and regional design, environmental design, technical ecology, to cite but a few.
Secondly, we enquiry whether an education in Urbanism should dwell on traditional ways of study or should it incorporate elements of practice? When it does so, how to evaluate the results? There is nothing new in offering an education with strong elements of practice: practice is an essential element in fields as varied as medicine, the performing arts and even teaching. In all these fields, strong communities of practice have built specific teaching tools and assessment criteria over the years. Specific communities of practice have established common grounds to educate practitioners and the level of dissatisfaction about a practical education in those areas seems to be low.
However, the stretched scope of urbanism, with its large range of inputs drawn from very different disciplines, seems to create some confusion. We verify the existence of several communities of practice who value practice and theory differently. Assessing the work of students is an arduous task, because different communities of practice value different things and seem to see little value in aspects that do not comply with their own views. In this way, practitioners (designers) seem to see little value in textual expression, while planners seem to struggle to value design outside a structured discourse that grounds the design.