If you enjoy art and design and are interested in the built environment industry, then you should consider a career as an urban designer. Urban design deals with the planning and development of buildings, public utilities, streets, neighbourhoods, and cities to create a beautiful and sustainable environment.

Across the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, urban designers help to create living spaces and environments that are safe and enjoyable to reside in. Urban design shapes the physical features of urban and rural environments in villages, towns, and cities to improve people’s lives.

What Is Urban Design?

Urban Design

Urban design is a broad field of study that cuts across architecture, urban and regional planning, and social planning. It is the effective planning and use of available land to develop residential and official buildings in response to population growth and the service needs of residents.

It is an art that involves designing the physical setting of rural and urban areas, that is, their buildings and landscapes. Urban design helps to create living spaces that are safe to reside in and attractive to visit. It involves the development of socially and economically successful built environments.

With urban design, people from varying societies can enjoy a shared community identity from buildings, places, and landscapes. The built environment is created through the judicious use of scarce resources and can deliver better public services to users. Urban design takes into consideration the immediate and future needs of the populace.

The Architecture of the Future

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Who Is an Urban Designer?

Urban Designer

Resource: https://arch.umd.edu/

An Urban Designer is a professional who designs built environments ranging from rural towns and cities to individual streets and commercial centres. The primary mission of an urban designer is to develop better places for human use.

Urban designers create both urban environments in towns and cities and rural environments in villages. They are also responsible for planning and developing parks and open landscapes.

An urban designer has to be familiar with building code regulations, zoning regulations, and environmental regulations that will affect how available land is developed. Urban designers are often part of a multi-faceted team involving architects, town planners, developers, traffic engineers, and local planning authorities.

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Key Responsibilities of an Urban Designer

  • An urban designer creates detailed drawings using technical drawing skills or Computer Aided Design (CAD) software to give a pictorial view of the intended building or group of buildings.
  • An urban designer conducts reconnaissance surveys on lands and buildings, determines their current use, and develops recommendations for their future development.
  • An urban designer must be capable of working based on a self-driven creative direction while still being part of a multi-faceted team.
  • An urban designer researches the intended users of the project, understands their needs, and creates a design based on physical, environmental, and economic factors.
  • An urban designer ensures that the team adheres to policies and regulations when developing buildings, streets, parks, and squares.

What Does a Typical Urban Designer Career Path Look Like?

Urban Design is a rewarding profession both in personal fulfilment and financial gains. Typically, an urban designer’s salary ranges between £22,000 – £55,000.

In most cases, urban designers work with an organisation and are often part of a multi-skilled team involving other professionals in the building space. On the other hand, some urban designers prefer to be self-employed, either working as freelancers or establishing their consultancy firm. These designers get to determine their work hours and the type of projects they undertake.

Like other professions, the career ladder of urban designers is determined by their qualifications and years of work experience.

  • Junior Urban Designers: This is the entry-level position for professionals in the urban design industry. In the UK,  a junior urban designer earns between £22,000 – £25,000.
  • Experienced Urban Designers: This is a mid-level position for urban designers with more than five years of experience in the industry. An experienced urban designer’s salary is usually between £29,000 – £40,000.
  • Senior Urban Designer: In the UK, senior urban designers could earn between £45,000 – £55,000. These designers are often partners or associates in their firms. They also have many years of work experience under their belt, and their remuneration depends on the quality of projects the firm undertakes.

How Can You Become an Urban Designer?

How to Become an Urban Designer

Resource:https://www.nyc.gov/site/planning/planning-level/urban-design/urban-design-our-work.page

These are several routes you could explore to become an urban designer. 

  • A University Degree: One way to become an urban designer is by earning an undergraduate degree in urban design or relevant fields such as architecture, civil engineering, geography, urban and regional planning, built environment, and construction management.

A bachelor’s degree in any of these fields equips you with the requisite knowledge you need to fulfil the key responsibilities of an urban designer. It helps you secure an entry-level position at a construction organisation, urban design consultancy firm, or town planning agency.

  • Apprenticeship: For those who cannot afford the costs of a university degree, apprenticeship is another suitable route. By interning under an experienced urban designer who runs a consultancy firm, you can learn the skills required to succeed in the profession. Apprentices can train under a senior urban designer or middle-level urban designer for some years before applying for a junior urban designer position at any organisation.
  • Work Experience: In most cases, urban designers are usually architects, town planners, and landscape architects. These professionals worked in their respective fields for some years before deciding to specialise in urban design.

Architects, Construction Managers, and other related professionals in the built environment space can easily switch to Urban Design. Even though their experience can be an added advantage to the job, some employers often require that such professionals get a master’s degree in Urban Design.

A higher degree increases your chances of getting high-paying job offers in the industry. Most professionals who take this route undergo a part-time master’s programme.

Urban Design Degrees: What to Expect

Green design

Resource: https://www.flickr.com/

Despite being highly relevant in the building industry, urban design is not an accredited profession. Furthermore, no professional body governs the curriculum of higher education courses in the field. Thus, if you decide to study Urban Design at the university, bear in mind that the course content differs across universities.

Each university has created its curriculum based on the expected knowledge and skill required of an urban designer.

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12 Best Courses in Urban Design in the UK

1.) Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Design, University Of Greenwich
2.) Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Planning, Design and Management, University College London
3.) Bachelor’s Degree in Urban and Environmental Planning, London South Bank University
4.) Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Design, Planning and Development, Oxford Brookes University
5.) Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Development, Western University, London
6.) Master’s Degree (MA) in Urban Design, Oxford Brookes University
7.) Master’s Degree (MA) in Urban Design, Leeds Beckett University
8.) Master’s Degree (MA) in Urban Design, Cardiff University
9.) Master’s Degree (MA) in Urban Design, University of Westminster
10.) Master’s Degree (MSc) in City Planning and Design, Queen’s University, Belfast
11.) Master’s Degree (MA) in Intelligent Mobility, Royal College Of Art, London
12.) Master’s Degree (MSc) in City Planning and Design, QUB Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS)

7 Best Online Courses For Urban Designers

1.) Urban Nature: Connecting Cities, Sustainability and Innovation

Duration: 1-3 months

Institution: Lund University

2.) Smart Cities: Management of Smart Urban Infrastructures

Duration: 1-3 months

Institution: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

3.) Management of Urban Structures (Part 1)

Duration: 1-3 months

Institution: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

4.) Planning and Design of Sanitation Systems and Technologies

Duration: 1-3 months

Institution: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

5.) Innovative Governance of Large Urban Systems

Duration: 1-3 months

Institution: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

6.) Shaping Urban Futures

Duration: 1-3 months

Institution: Indian Institute For Human Settlement

7.) Sustainable Cities and Communities Specialisation

Duration: 3-6 months

Institution: Lund University

Key Skills You Need to Become an Urban Designer

You should possess the  following skills if you desire to be an urban designer:

  • The ability to work on complex projects: The type and size of projects you will work on will vary. Some will be more complex than others. So, you must be prepared to work on complex projects requiring more skill and research.
  • An analytical and problem-solving mind: Urban Design provides solutions to current and future problems in built environments. You will have to analyse challenges and proffer designs to create communities with safe and sustainable living spaces.
  • Good written and oral communication skills: Urban designers work with a multi-disciplinary team. Alongside the ability to listen and empathise, you should be able to communicate effectively in writing and speech.
  • Effective organisation skills: Properly managing tasks and schedules would help you meet deadlines and deliver quality projects to clients.
  • Tech-savviness: You should be able to use tech to proffer practical solutions to real-life issues. You must know your way around technical software, such as Planradar, which can improve the quality of your work and help you to be more efficient.

Conclusion

Urban design is a skilled profession that requires more practical work than theory. As such, work experience is the currency that gives you an edge when seeking employment. Also, the type of work experience you need varies from public to private sector.

Although it is a rewarding profession, urban design work can be very stressful. Urban designers are required to work long hours on multiple projects at the same time. To reduce the stress of managing several projects per time, urban design consultancy firms or freelance urban designers can leverage software technologies such as Planradar to simplify their work process.

Planradar is a project management software for professionals in the construction and built environment industry. The software solution was created with urban designers in mind and helps them manage and complete projects on-time with minimal effort.

To understand how Planradar can ease your work process, try out our 30-day free trial today!