Combining social and design interests in urban planning

Claudia Lombard was drawn to studying at Melbourne School of Design as a place to explore her social and environmental interests, alongside design.

Claudia Lombard pictured at Melbourne School of Design

“It was perfect for someone like me who has so many different interests and often can’t decide between them,” she said.

After completing her undergraduate studies at the Faculty, majoring in Urban Design and Planning, she is now studying the Master of Urban Planning. We caught up with Claudia to hear about her experiences and plans for the future.

What attracted you to urban planning?
After being introduced to the urban planning discipline in my undergraduate course, I realised the importance of ensuring that cities are prepared for the future challenges of population growth. I wanted to be able to contribute something positive to society, and became very interested in social planning specifically.

What is your favourite subject so far?
Inclusive Cities, as it provided a thorough exploration into social planning and the different dimensions of equity within the city. The subject also included lots of great workshops and guest lectures from professionals with amazing social planning experience.

I also loved Planning Law and Statutory Planning as it really covered the foundations of the Victorian planning system and prepared me well for my first industry job.

How do you balance studying and working at the same time?
I’m working as a Town Planning Assistant at Tract Consultants. They’ve been very supportive and given me the flexibility to be able to study and work at the same time. During semester, I do three days at Tract, and spend two days at uni. Overall, I’ve been able to manage both by planning ahead, recognising when I’m going to need more time to work on uni assignments, and communicating that to my workplace.

What are the most valuable skills you have learned?
I have learned how to gather information and synthesise design solutions from it. I have also learned a lot about design processes, and the ways stakeholder interests can be listened to and incorporated into designs, which benefit all users of a space. One of the most valuable skills I’ve learned for the industry is how to navigate the Victorian planning system and produce planning reports – something that has been incredibly valuable since working in the industry.

What would you like to do after completing your studies?
I’m currently working in a planning consultancy and would like to continue to do so. I’d also like to begin incorporating some more social, community projects into my work and gain experience in placemaking. I’m particularly interested in community programs that empower disadvantaged groups such as the homeless or new migrant minorities. I believe planning has the power to create more inclusive cities for all groups, especially those who would otherwise not have a voice.

Did you take part in any extracurricular activities related to your discipline?
One of the most fulfilling parts of my study was being actively involved in clubs on campus. This was a great social outlet, a fantastic way to network, and provided lots of great industry and educational learning opportunities. It’s definitely worth getting involved to get the most out of your time at this University.

What’s your favourite place on campus?
It’s hard for me to pick one place! The MSD Building is my favourite place to study, particularly the collaborative room in the library. I also love Union Lawns, and South Lawn. They are great places to catch up with friends and relax in the sun between classes.

What trends do you think will be important in the future of our built environments?
I believe there will be growing recognition of the importance of environmental justice – or the idea that ordinary citizens should be able to have a say in the decisions made about the places they live. I believe it is important that planners help to facilitate this and provide ample opportunities for citizen participation.

What would you like people to know about your discipline?
Urban Planning is so broad! There are so many avenues to take within it and it’s perfect for anyone who is interested in lots of different things at the same time, as there are always opportunities for projects that meld together different disciplines.

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