Final Reflection

My apologies for the late post. Thank you to the Madrid team for sharing your work with us this semester!

What I learned
I think the main thing I gained from the exchange was improved presentation skills. We had to think carefully about how to communicate our work with people who speak English as a second language and have a different academic background and planning culture. Being able to clearly and effectively explain your work to someone who is not familiar with it is a valuable skill. We could have done a better job with this, but it was a good learning experience. I also gained a greater appreciation of the use of visuals as a way to express ideas. I tend to focus on language rather than visuals, so I valued seeing Madrid’s very visual analysis and presentation style.

This exchange also highlighted for me how important it is to have interdisciplinary teams working on urban planning issues. I think more economic analysis could have been incorporated into the Madrid team’s proposals to make them more implementable. For example, you can propose as much commercial space as you want, because it looks good or because you like what it does for the neighborhood, but it won’t get built unless it makes economic sense.

I used to work at an urban economics consulting firm and we often partnered with urban design firms on projects. We were kind of the realists on the team and we’d go back and forth with the urban designers to give them constraints on their design proposals, such as this neighborhood can probably support an additional 50,000 square feet of retail given household incomes and leakage, or only 4-story wood frame construction is going to be financially feasible in this market. Of course there are also lots of other issues that need to be integrated into a neighborhood plan besides economics and urban design, such as community input and environmental concerns.

What could be improved
I think I learned most in our first one or two sessions. Maybe a different structure rather than presentations would have helped. I also think that a pairing of two studios that are more similar in content/approach could have potentially led to a more robust exchange of ideas.

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