Career Discovery students take on local challenge

Career Discovery students investigating urban planning and design this summer are getting a crash course in how to redevelop a site. Under the guidance of Adrienne Matthews (MUP ’14), Lydia Scott (MUP ’14), and Beth Lundell Garver (MAUD ’14), the students are developing plans to reuse a large parcel of land that is currently home to a big-box store in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Career Discovery is a six-week program hosted by the GSD offering students the opportunity to try out their interest in pursuing a career in planning or design. A rigorous schedule of lectures, field trips, workshops, and studios enhances their understanding of the professions. Participants have diverse backgrounds, from recent high school and college graduates to midcareer professionals.

“It’s a great opportunity to work on technical skills,” said Eyab Sharew, a Tufts University undergraduate from Denver. He found the program’s focus on hand-drawn plans, rather than computer-generated designs, to be particularly valuable. “To think out ideas with hand and pen forces you to think more critically.”

Sharew’s idea for the Somerville redevelopment is to promote inclusion. He characterized the single-use site as “unhealthy” and highlighted how his plan introduces civic space, as well as affordable residential units.

Jonathan Hursch, a midcareer professional, pitches a very different reuse of the site: a High School of Urban Planning and Design. Hursch said that such a charter school could tap into Somerville’s identity as a “city of youth” and create a sense of “buzz and flow.” He envisions an interactive space where students and passersby can rearrange models in order to create their visions of the ideal city.

As the Career Discovery students presented these preliminary ideas during a review session, their instructors encouraged them to consider key components of urban planning and design, such as clear representation of ideas, land use programs, and phasing of construction. Incorporating those comments into their work is undoubtedly the next step for students in discovering whether they enjoy the challenges and opportunities presented by a career in planning and design.