Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools


Urban planners and urban designers are interested in building places that embody beauty and hope. In this course, Emily Talen, PhD, FAICP, presents free urban design software tools that can help city planners and urban designers visualize changes in the built environment to support the overarching goal of creating better places.

Many of the tools used to communicate urban design concepts and interventions (Google Earth, GIS, SketchUp, image manipulation) are free, easy to learn, and transformative. With knowledge of planning principles and site design in hand, these communication tools fundamentally change the role of the planner. This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using free and open source software and provides planners with the tools they need to fully participate in the urban design process.

The first course in the “Urban Design for Planners” learning track introduces the open-source urban planning software you’ll use throughout the series to create analytical maps, 3D models, and 2D graphical designs. Learn how to download urban design visualization software, the basic tools and features of each program, and how these skills can contribute to the urban design process.

In this course, Emily Talen advances several key principles, including sustainability, incrementalism, social justification, and the art of alternatives. Each course in this track addresses the rationale, analysis, and design of specific interventions. This course lays the foundation for the basic skills needed to participate in the rest of the Urban Design for Planners learning path.


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