Envisioning future cities and understanding urban planning ! Thanks to University of Pennsylvania

Designing cities - University of Pennsylvania

Why urban planning?
Although a chemical engineer, I have indirectly worked in Urban planning through many of the projects. Let me share 3 of them.

  • Jerusalem 2050 competition(2007):
  • During my bachelor studies, I participated in ‘Jerusalem 2050’, a competition organized by School of Planning & Architecture, MIT. For this competition we were asked to suggest solutions of the problems, city of Jerusalem 2050 might face in the year 2050. It was my first time working with urban planning and various related aspects. Read more here

  • European Best Engineering Competition (EBEC):
  • I was part of the case writing team For the biggest engineering competition in Europe. have preapred case studies on ‘Traffic Congestion in Mumbai’, as well as ‘Waste Management in New Delhi’ bringing me in direct touch with Urban Planning and its effect on the people’s life.

  • CDIO Academy- Rethink City Contest:
  • CDIO academy is the group of international universities aiming to improve the education and they meet each year to discuss new methods in education. In 2011, this conference was organized at Technical University of Denmark, where I was pursuing my master’s education. Along with this conference, we have organized 6 month long ‘Rethink City Contest’. The contest gathered talented young students from the world to think & provide solutions of the future megacities might face. I was part of the marketing team and reached out to students in 50 different countries. This has further strengthen my ability to understand future cities &their impact in our lives. Read more here

          How I came to this course?

    As part of my ‘Envisioning 21st century global manager’ project, I was looking forward to expand my knowledge in urbane planning in systematic manner. According to many reports, majority of the future population will live in cities and this is going to bring lot of challenges and opportunities. Knowing more about Urban planning, city designing can definitely help any business manager in his /her work.
    In August 2013, I have seen ‘Design Cities’, a course by University of Pennsylvania-Design in the Coursera website. Before this, I have studied a bit about Urban planning using some of the opensource resources, but studying in this way could be more exciting. Also, three assignments mentioned as part of this course were an opportunity to try learning in real situations. My objective was to understand city planning in a systematic manner and integrate it later with my other learning.

    Course experiences
    A wonderful course, it has showcased many different aspects in the development of cities, from history to current times, challenges faced by city authorities and restoration of some famous cities. It was good to know, how changing the shape of the city changed the life of the people (Medellin, Colombia). Also interesting to know how future cities will look like. Cities have shaped the life of people, region and nation and the historical examples provided in this course provided a deep into this rich history of mankind.

    Management of floods, water resources, energy consumption and transportation makes urban planning an interdisciplinary subject. Some of the examples provided in this course highlighted the mistakes made in city plannings and how they were corrected in the due course of time. Future cities are going to big with majority of current rural population will become part of them. This is true especially for developing nations.
    People living in these big cities will demand for better life, better health and better education facilities. Accommodating these needs is going to be a big challenge and bringing everyone on the same side has never been so easy, something highlighted very well by the Professors in lecture videos. Not all the ideas, designed by the planners sees the light of reality.
    Supplementary readings as part of this course were also an added bonus, although I could not study all of them.
    Course assignments
    Course assignments gave me chance to think out of box to come up with solutions for my home town. Not just doing the assignments, reading the assignments submitted by others as part of the peer evaluation gave me lot of interesting insights about the other cities. I have evaluated assignment about Russia, China, USA, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Iran and other different countries. Knowing about those places through their own people was a big knowledge boost.
    Coming back to my own works. In the third assignment, I have given ideas to reduce traffic congestion in my city. I have already presented this idea to some prominent people of my city and possibly present this to city authorities in future. Hopefully, this will make some impact in my home town and the life of the people.

    When I was accidental caught by the police in submitting assignment
    During the month of September 2013, I have moved to a new house outskirts of the city. No provider was giving internet connection, so I had to travel around 4-5 km daily to a nearby internet cafe for all the course related work. By October 2013, I bought a USB modem to get slow speed internet access at home. Still, I had to go to Internet cafe to download videos. Sitting with patience on this slow speed internet, it was possible to submit assignments and finish quizzes. Soon, I faced one of the most exciting night of my life.
    This internet stopped working hours before the deadline of first peer evaluation assignment in Designing Cities. I was thinking to submit it in around midnight (Indian time), which is afternoon(Pacific time). I went up from my house in 5th floor to 9th floor, assuming that weak signal could be a reason for this error. It did not work. Then, I came out of my building, walked around the entire housing complex just to get internet working at least for 5 minutes. Nothing happened!! It was already 1 AM and I was losing patience. Finally, I took my laptop and came out of housing complex and started walking towards the telephone tower. I was walking on national highway which is the only route to tower. I was completely unaware of the fact that this road is generally patrolled by the Police during night. Soon one of the patrolling van spotted me, stopped me for identification and asked why I am walking at 2 AM on highway that too alone?? Initially I was clueless, but later explained them my problem and even shown them my assignment as a justification . Well, they did not allow me to go further from that point and even warned me for not doing this again.

    I returned back home and tried every possible method to get it work all night. It worked only at 6 Am after making me sleepless entire night. I will never forget this experience 🙂

    Further takeaway & thanks!
    Through this course, I got good overview of the city design, related frameworks and lot of creative ideas to solve problems. Network of classmates from around the world was also equally important. Using this course, I was able to satisfy my desire to know more about one of the most upcoming trends in future, ‘Smart cities’. Later, I have mixed the course knowledge with marketing to create a self-initiated study on ‘Marketing in Megacities’ .


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