A group of 16 Melbourne School of Design masters students gained firsthand insights into planning practices in Asia Pacific cities through a study tour to Japan and South Korea in July.
During the 10-day journey, the students heard presentations from planning institutions, consultant firms and government departments, and visited the Otemachi and Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town in Japan, along with South Korea’s Sewoon Plaza and Songdo International Business District.
It formed part of the masters-level Planning Asia Pacific Cities Studio, which explores the urban planning implications of the rapid change and development many cities in the region have experienced.
Subject leader Dr Hyung Min Kim said the study tour gave students the opportunity to explore new urban development projects and discuss these with local planners. He said Tokyo and Seoul faced challenges including natural disasters, ageing and hyper-concentration.
“These two cities are an excellent laboratory for having implemented new planning ideas to deal with urban challenges,” Dr Kim said.
“Tokyo and Seoul have extensive public transport networks. They are trying to build smart cities to tackle critical urban issues.”
Second-year Master of Urban Planning student Nicholas Bunney said he was attracted to the subject to learn about how other countries are tackling urban planning issues that also affect Australia. He felt the access to government agencies to hear about the thinking behind urban regeneration responses was a highlight of the trip.
For fellow second-year Urban Planning student Jan Christopher Quing, the trip was an opportunity to experience cities he’d visited previously as a tourist from a different perspective.
“Coming from an Asian city – Manila – I wanted to see the concepts I’ve been studying applied to an Asian city. It was more relatable for me,” Mr Quing said.
These two cities are an excellent laboratory for having implemented new planning ideas to deal with urban challenges. Tokyo and Seoul have extensive public transport networks. They are trying to build smart cities to tackle critical urban issues. Dr Hyung Min Kim
“I was also hooked by the smart cities focus. I come from a software engineering background so I really identify with that context.”
Both students highlighted the value of developing fieldwork skills as a benefit that would help inform their future work.
“I learned that it’s essential to take field notes. I do a lot of research and academic writing, but going out in the field and practising skills like photography and taking notes was really valuable,” Mr Quing said.
Mr Bunney said he also appreciated the importance of placemaking schemes and community engagement, particularly in South Korea, in bringing communities together.
Students participated in the study tour with support from an Australian Government Endeavour Mobility grant, and funding from the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning. The group's visit to Seoul appeared in local media.
Image: Sewoon Plaza, Seoul, South Korea. Supplied by Hyung Min Kim.