Tell us about your time at ECA
There were a few reasons why I chose to study Urban Strategies and Design at ECA. Firstly, I had just completed a Masters in Architecture at the University of Houston where my final thesis project was concerned with an urban-scaled architectural proposal. I had become fascinated with mapping and urban study as a tool for design. After an internship at Miralles Tagliabue EMBT in Barcelona , where I first became familiar with European city planning, I decided that completing a course in Edinburgh was something that really interested me.
One of the most challenging yet productive aspects of the course was working with other students who had not come from a design background. This was a purposeful move by the course organisers to engender an interdisciplinary working atmosphere in tune with real world scenarios within the Urban Strategies field. Coming from an architectural background, I had a narrow view of what urbanism was and other viewpoints were instrumental in broadening and deepening this understanding.
Urbanism cannot be taught from only a textbook and the morphology of Edinburgh itself played a big role in learning how and why cities develop over time. We had weekly guided ‘walkabouts’ through the city, including in the pouring rain, to learn how physical spaces in cities contain and interact with social functions. A weeklong trip to Amsterdam offered a different perspective, and interestingly I am soon moving to the Netherlands to pursue work in urban design.
Tell us about your experiences since leaving
Throughout my course I worked part time at Edinburgh landscape architecture studio GROSS. MAX. After graduating, I was able to work there full time meaning I got a lot of exposure to on-going projects. My main involvement was in the development of the Greenwich Peninsula in London. This was a very large-scale project, which meant I was able to further hone my abilities at the urban scale, as well as developing an understanding of landscape strategies. I found that the course helped me operate at both levels as it was very flexible in its approach. My understanding of design and urbanism had been broadened, and I viewed my work as a more holistic approach that linked architecture, urbanism and landscape.
I have since moved back to home to South Africa where I collaborated on an analysis of Cape Town entitled ‘Parallel Cities’. This studied the city as a post-apartheid metropolis that retains a series of engrained physical boundaries between racial groups. The project went on to give evidence to support the notion that Cape Town has now developed into two distinct cities that are divided along economic lines. I have also collaborated on some design competitions, including for an urban project along the Mexico-USA border.
The Urban Strategies and Design course has emboldened my determination to work in the urban field. Tutors Tahl Kaminer and Ola Uduku brought a progressive approach which, coupled with the present urgency of global conditions such as rapid urbanisation, climate change and social inequality, has given me the tools and motivation to further explore design role in the future of cities.
To someone about to start Urban Strategies and Design I would say that the field of urbanism is big, so allow yourself to be open and flexible to learn all aspects of urbanism before you focus on what interests you the most.
To those of you leaving Edinburgh this year I would say that for me cities can challenge the way I see things and give me new perspectives on the world that otherwise may not have been possible. So try as much as you can to immerse yourself in new places, new cultures and new ideas, because you never know when you’ll be back and have that chance to engage in what is, for me, a very humbling experience.
What have you done since graduating? Share your story with us on firstname.lastname@example.org.