Martha Thorne. (Associate Dean for External Relations. IE School of Architecture) 

     Why have you gone to Shanghai? What was the reason for your visit? 

I recently  traveled  to Shanghai to participate in two events related to urbanism, planning, and the future of cities.  One was organized by Madrid City Hall  in conjunction with its pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and the other by the Chinese edition of the renowned magazine Architectural Record. Both panel discussions had overlapping themes and brought together both Chinese and international experts. 

     You have discussed the main trends in urban strategies, which are these trends and how do you describe them? 

The round table discussion related to trends and urban strategies began by speaking about the rapid pace and scale of urbanization in developing countries, such as China.  In a country that is so quickly transforming itself from a rural to urban society the normal tools and techniques for urban planning are called into question.  The interdisciplinary nature of problems is much more obvious than in the past.  Planning must be comprehensive and include transportation, infrastructure, housing for all sectors of society, land use planning, urban and social services,  sustainability, etc.  The success or failure of cities will depend on the quality of life and choice that they are able to provide for their diverse residents. Planners must also remember that, in times of rapid change, strategies are often more important than drawing lines on a plan, and flexibility in the face of uncertainty is necessary. 

     Would you recommend to a student of Architecture to specialized in Urban Planning? Why? What kind of professional opportunities does Urban Planning offer? 

I strongly encourage architecture students to look towards urban planning options.  Architecture provides an understanding of spatial and design concerns while encouraging critical thinking and strategic planning.  Forming part of a team to undertake large scale problems is often gratifying. Without a doubt,  places such as China and India  are laboratories for innovation and change.  Older European cities,  while not growing rapidly face profound needs for renewal and renovation,  and therefore pose other interesting problems for future city planners.


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