Nora on making a difference through the Bachelor of Design’s urban planning major

First year Bachelor of Design student Nora Tal received the DELWP Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship for 2018. We caught up with her to find out how urban planning inspires her and what her experience studying the Bachelor of Design has been like so far.

Nora on the Y stairs

Why did you decide to pursue the Bachelor of Design?
I always wanted to go into something creative after school, and I also wanted to make a difference in whatever sort of pathway I chose. I feel that this balance is well-met with the Bachelor of Design and its majors, as there is a strong focus on not only the practical part of design but also the theory and history behind the disciplines, creating a real sense of why things are being done the way they are now, and how they can be improved for the future.

I also really liked the idea of doing a course with different majors, as it allows me to meet all kinds of different people, even in one class or subject. The diversity is great and insightful, as you hear all sorts of contrasting ideas and inputs into one topic.

What major did you choose?
I chose Urban Planning as my major, as it has always piqued my interest. I wanted to pursue Urban Planning because it gave me insight into how the current generation, myself included, can step forward to create better cities for current and future use. Also, I really love how it looks at design from a broad point of view, allowing me to focus on both a city/area as well as each of its individual parts.

You received a DELWP Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship to study the Bachelor of Design. How did it feel to receive that support before starting at the University?
A major milestone when receiving the scholarship was the fact that I was lucky enough to be interviewed by a really intelligent and inspiring panel, who had looked at and read my work and thoughts about the discipline of Urban Planning. I had no 'formal' knowledge about urban planning prior to starting the Bachelor of Design, so having that vote of confidence and approval by such an educated group was really inspiring and helpful when starting university and going into what can be a scary and new experience.

In addition to this, especially when it came to end of semester assessments, the cost of creating a well-presented final product can add up, between printing, model materials and digital software. Having the funding from the DELWP Scholarship really removed a lot of the anxiety that these additional costs created, and therefore really helped me to produce the best work that I could, without the restriction of financial struggle.

One of the factors in selecting a DELWP Scholarship recipient was a short, written piece where you identified what you think are the top planning challenges facing your community. What did you write and how do you see the DELWP Scholarship assisting you in addressing these challenges in the future?
I really enjoyed doing this, as I had never really gotten a previous opportunity to be able to write on an issue like this that I was so passionate about! I wrote about my experiences growing up in a central/eastern Melbourne suburb and the developmental changes that have occurred over time, particularly the increase in high rise and apartment buildings. I’ve always loved apartments and have been very much in support of them, as building up rather than out is a great way to cater for population growth while also taking into account the importance of land for our farming and agricultural-based exports.

However, as time moved on, I noticed the deteriorating quality in the urban design and structure of a lot of these new developments, whether it was something as small as constant leaks in the building or a major issue, such as being built with non-sustainable materials. These were major warning signs to me, as they’re not only reducing the likelihood of people supporting apartments, but also decreasing quality of life in our community. I placed a strong focus on the need for apartments and dwellings that were built to last but also maintained visual integrity, as well as emphasising more community features within apartments or communities, such as community gardens, parks and even artwork in order to remove the formal segregation that a lot of new buildings and designs create.

What has been your favourite Bachelor of Design subject so far and why?
My favourite subject so far has been Introduction to Urban Planning. It provided a great understanding about the different disciplines that could be pursued within Urban Planning, and allowed us great insight into each pathway through local case studies and a wide range of guest lecturers from real-life practice in their respective fields.

I also really enjoyed Foundations of Design: Representation, as it was a studio that many different majors required their students to do, meaning that I got to meet so many great people who are now my close friends. It was a lot of hard work, but the end results and skills I learnt are so useful for so many subjects, and it was nice to see a physical representation of the work we’d put in throughout the semester through our models and portfolios.

What are the most valuable skills you have learnt so far?
A big skill I’ve learnt is the importance of teamwork. A lot of the build up to exam and assessment periods in high school really encourages a strong competitive nature between schools, peers, and essentially leaving everyone to fend for themselves. However, I’ve found that at University, helping out friends and peers when you’re ahead on a task or in an area where you have some previous skills is a powerful and strong skill to have, and one that I’ve really embraced in my first year of uni.

That way, you grow to know people with different strengths who tend to return the favour when a project they’re more comfortable with comes up. Another big skill is digital skills. I had some previous knowledge from folio subjects in high school but being able to comfortably work with adobe programs and even Rhino is really helpful, as I’ve been able to apply these in other subjects that might not necessarily teach these programs in-depth. It’s nice to have work that looks professional and well-rendered, which wouldn’t happen without the strong focus on the digital skills and the opportunities they’ve given.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to prospective students before starting the Bachelor of Design?
The biggest advice I’d give is to really enjoy every aspect of University and the Bachelor of Design program! Be organised and put a strong priority on your work but also join the clubs, go to the Design & Environments Student Society (DESS) pizza lunches, and have fun. A lot of the pressure from studying is released when you allow yourself to have fun and live a truly enjoyable Bachelor of Design and uni experience. In addition to this, use the facilities and opportunities given to you by the faculty. Things like the Peer-Assisted programs really help to provide an understanding from a student who has already done and succeeded in the subject, and truly wants you to do the same.

What would be your dream project in your future career?
This is a tough question, because already in just a couple of semesters of study I’ve learnt about so many different projects and design implementations which I would love to be a part of, but I think the most interesting and appealing ones are those that have big plans and ambitions for their outcome. For example, I learnt about a car-free neighbourhood in Mannheim, Germany which had a strong focus on community and communal facilities within a condensed space, which I have a strong passion about. Essentially, anything that can help positively bring people together and inspire others would be a dream project.

The DELWP Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship is awarded to up to two commencing Bachelor of Design students each year. To find out more or to apply for the scholarship please visit scholarships and awards.