Representation for Planners

One task of an urban planner is to grapple with and understand a series of complicated processes that directly affect the organization and experience of place. Social, cultural, political, and economic forces all influence the complexity of a site. The planner must interpret these forces, arrive at a position in response to them, and make them legible to a wide array of stakeholders. Beyond the proposed plan and strategy, another critical contribution of the planner is to communicate, persuade, and be an agent for reaching consensus among competing agendas.

While urban planners need to communicate through a variety of means, visual representation of abstract concepts and processes is a skill needed to speculate and make intelligible ideas on the future of urbanism and the environment. Effective visualizations not only support verbal proposals but can stand alone as standalone artifacts that communicate new information to their audience.

In the service of these various roles, Representation for Planners provides first semester urban planning students with the graphic and technical skills needed to reason, design, and communicate. Students will learn the basics of visual representation and gain familiarity with the technical tools essential for making maps and exploring relationships in the physical, regulatory, and demographic dimensions of the built
environment. Additionally, we will use computer software and modeling tools, such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and SketchUp to distill ideas into effective graphic presentations. Each program presents opportunities to communicate visual information in different ways and, over the course of the class, workflows to operate between programs will be reinforced. Students will learn how these techniques can be used as part of the planning process itself and communicate with broader audiences.

The general structure for each week is as follows—on Tuesdays, a conceptual underpinning of representation will be presented with specific examples. Students will engage a specific exercise on Thursday classes synthesizing the representational techniques presented on Tuesday with the software skills introduced. Readings will also be discussed at the beginning of class.

This half?semester module works in tandem with Course 2128, Spatial Analysis.