Urban planning and design as programs of study emerged at professional and graduate schools in the early to mid 20th century, but did not become an option for undergraduate students until the 1970s. Today, urban studies associated with every social science have become a part of regular discourse in colleges and universities throughout the United States. As Andrew Wade, professor for the International Honors Program (IHP) points out - "Urban studies programs are sprawling faster than the cities they critique. The qualifier “urban” has become ubiquitous: where once stood geography, politics, and ecology now stand urban geography, urban politics, and urban ecology."
As urbanism becomes a larger part of our colloquial vocabulary - describing more specifically the way cities emerge, develop, thrive, and collapse or endure - it has become clear that "cities are a source of problems and solutions for contemporary life" that require a deep level of exploration and understanding. The "Cities in the 21st Century" study abroad program offered by the IHP is a unique opportunity that incorporates a hands on and observational approach to an urban planning education. In an essay via Urban Omnibus, instructor Andrew Wade shares his and his students' experiences in the program. Read on after the break for more.
If you have been following our articles on the topic urbanism on ArchDaily, you will have noticed the statistic that comes up most frequently stresses that a growing percentage of the world's population is migrating into cities. For a variety of reasons, cities offer a unique opportunity at (occasionally) a tremendous cost to its own citizens. Cities offer diverse social and economic opportunities; they offer social mobility and a diversity of resources. They promise better opportunities for the children of those who choose to relocate, and they promise the chance at a higher standard of living.
Yet, large cities, particularly those in the developing world, are often cited as having some of the most unhealthy mental, social and physical conditions for the individual and the environment. Exploding populations often mean crowding - often mean slums and shanty towns. While promising upward social mobility, cities whose populations continue to grow tend to lack the preparedness associated with taking care of an increase in population and have some of the highest divisions among social and economic classes. They lack infrastructural development and social and physical support.
"Cities in the 21st Century" takes its students on a semester long study of four distinct and diverse cities around the world - New Orleans, USA; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Cape Town, South Africa; and Hanoi, Vietnam. A month spent in each city gives students the opportunity to experience the city first hand, to understand their development and struggles, to critically asses the urban environment and to establish tentative conclusions about their future development.
Each city offers a complex level of understanding, each with its own combination of social, political, economic, and environmental concerns. The most creative solutions in city-making come from
and exploring a diversity of solutions - planned and serendipitous. In this global socio-economic world, IHP embraces an understanding that within the most diverse cities, we can find the most effective solutions for future urban planners and designers.