Urban Designer

By TACP Staff on July 04, 2021

If you have ever traveled by plane, you have probably witnessed the organizational structure of a city created by urban designers. The field of urban design is multi-dimensional and therefore offers many types of employment for individuals passionate about designing cities, towns, and all other public spaces. Either by big picture standards or micro-delineation, urban design offers something for every artist seeking to contribute to urban development.

What Is Urban Design?

Since the first settlements of early man, there has been some form of urban design. It wasn’t until the 20th century, however, that the term urban design was coined. Urban design can be described as a mix of city planning, landscape design, and architecture. It involves planning and designing nearly every aspect of a city. Some of the things that urban designers incorporate into their plans may include buildings, streets, landscaping, public transportation systems, and public parks.

Part of an urban designer’s job is to make the cities and towns he’s working on look and feel aesthetically pleasing. This can be done by adding or updating public parks and paying special attention to things like landscaping details and street furniture. Street furniture refers to the various items on streets that are placed there for the comfort and convenience of pedestrians. Some examples of street furniture might include benches, trash cans, street lights, and street signs.

Besides being aesthetically pleasing, all elements of a city or town must also allow for functionality as well. For example, inhabitants and visitors should find it easy to navigate. The use of street signs and properly laid out streets can accomplish this task.

Typical Work Environment

Although most modern urban designers won’t usually help design and plan completely new cities and towns, they will often help improve existing cities and towns. City officials often call upon urban designers when a city’s population increases and the current resources and amenities simply aren’t enough.

When a population of a city begins to grow, several problems can occur. This can lead to pedestrian and traffic congestion, for example, as well as housing shortages. Existing schools may not be enough to accommodate the number of children, and waste disposal techniques will also need to be modified. Distribution of natural resources, like water and natural gas, also usually needs to be reconsidered.

The first thing that an urban designer will do is meet with city officials. During this meeting, necessary changes will be discussed. The urban designer and city officials will also usually discuss the proposed budget for the project. Most of the time, city officials and urban designers will also take the concerns of current residents into consideration.

A designer will then usually look at the plans and designs for the current city, in order to figure out what can be changed. He will also usually meet with architects and landscape designers to work out a plan for the new city design.

Once an urban designer has a vision for his plans, he will start to make initial sketches. Computer software, like CAD software, can then be used to make final plans. These plans are typically very detailed, and they will include drawings for every aspect of the job.

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Urban Designer Education Requirements

To pursue an urban design career, individuals must usually possess at least a Bachelor’s degree in urban design or city planning. This four year degree is typically good enough to start working at an entry level position, but many urban designers usually end up furthering their education even more and earning Master’s degrees.

While earning their degrees, aspiring urban designers will usually need to take several math courses as well as computer courses. They will also take courses in architecture, landscape architecture, real estate law, and ecology.

Urban Designer Salary & Job Outlook

Urban designers fall under the category of urban and regional planners, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2017, these professionals made an average salary of around $71,490. Some areas require urban designers to take a difficult test and become licensed to start their careers. Urban designers typically work in large or architecture firms. Real estate developers will also usually work with urban designers as well. In some cases, city governments will also retain individual urban designers also.

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