Creating concepts for a sustainable future

Urban Design graduate Jonathan Wong. Photo / Ted Baghurst
Urban Design graduate Jonathan Wong. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Throughout the world, cities are looking for innovative ways to manage urban growth in more sustainable ways.

In urban design, the quality of the public space is important, and successful urban environments come from proposals that are complemented by positive change in the social and economic wellbeing of places and the people who live or work there.

The University of Auckland's Master of Urban Design programme recognises urban design is a distinct specialisation, drawing on a range of built environment professions, to build new specialist knowledge and skills.

The programme is open to professionals in architecture, landscape architecture and planning, and others who have an interest and understanding of urbanism.

Students represent a range of disciplines and professional experiences which leads to a rich and stimulating teaching and learning environment.

The one-year programme (with full and part-time options) is centred on studio projects ranging from city-wide scales to urban space and place design, supported by courses which build knowledge in urban design theory, economics, infrastructure, and sustainable development.

A major component of the programme is studio-based project work, which students undertake in the context of urban development in Auckland.

Projects have included the impact of the western rail corridor on adjacent suburbs, and the development of Auckland's Wynyard Quarter.

Graduates finish their masters with a good understanding of the ecological, social and economic conditions of cities, and a sound knowledge of key principles that underpin good urban places and spaces.

They are well equipped to pursue a career as an urban designer or as a leader and manager of urban design processes, in both public and private contexts.

Before studying urban design, I worked as a Landscape Architect for Boffa Miskell Limited. My interest in urban design stems both from my undergraduate landscape architectural studies, which contained a strong focus on urban issues and design projects within urban contexts and from my professional life where I have had the opportunity to work on a number of urban landscape projects.

Undertaking study within the field of urban design was the logical step to further explore my interests and develop additional skills.

I officially started working as an urban designer after graduating in 2010; however I had been working within the Boffa Miskell urban design team for some time.

My role involves expressing urban design thinking in both written and drawn forms. This ranges from writing reports to drawing concept diagrams and master plans.

The Masters of Urban Design requires students to exhibit these skills through various design studios and a lecture-based curriculum. It provides you with a platform to experiment with different forms of project visualisation (2D and 3D) as well as different graphic communication styles and to determine what methods are effective. This is counter-balanced by the written component which forces you to refine your thinking and articulate your ideas so they can be comprehended by others.

The Masters of Urban Design exposes you to the numerous facets of urban design, but it cannot prepare you for every situation that you will encounter in your professional life.

This is the best part of the challenge - the need to apply your skill set to constantly new situations and different prospective outcomes.

Jonathan was a top student at Unitec, he won the NZILA/Frank Boffa Award for best overall performance within the final year of the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, so we were aware of his abilities.

Boffa Miskell has a desire to assist new graduates across our disciplines of landscape architecture, planning and ecology, into work and we saw Jonathan as a great young talent who would learn from working alongside our designers while benefiting us with his youthful thinking and obvious commitment to the landscape architecture profession.

There are many important qualities for this role and Jonathan has most in abundance.

They include a willingness to take on whatever tasks are required, design creativity and innovative thinking, the ability to visualise what is drawn, attention to detail, keeping others informed, having a positive can do attitude, asking for help when needed and following through on things once started.

Jonathan's masters gives him a wider spectrum of project work that he can take on and a broader perspective and skill set relative to the urban environment.

The combination of landscape architecture and urban design is a powerful mix, especially as in Auckland and across New Zealand we are really starting to develop an understanding of our particular type of urban environment and commit to investing in good design.

Urban Design
Master of Urban Design (MUrbDes)

Where: The School of Architecture and Planning, City Campus, The University of Auckland.

Prerequisites: Professional qualification in architecture, planning or landscape architecture. Admission is by selection.

Course dates: Semester 1 of each academic year.

Cost: approx $7500 (domestic fee).

Course numbers: approx 20.

Starting salaries: Graduates may earn $40,000 a year, depending on the region, rising to $60,000 to $80,000 with three to five years' experience. Experienced urban designers can earn $100,000 plus (Source

Course length: One year full time (part-time option of two to four years).

Employment outcomes: Professional urban designer, urban design consultant, or, with relevant qualifications, architect, planner or landscape architect specialising in urban design.

The graduate

Jonathan Wong, aged 26
Landscape Architect and Urban Designer with Boffa Miskell Limited

Graduated in 2010 after studying the course part time over 2 years

The employer

Rachel de Lambert
Landscape Architect and Director Boffa Miskell

- NZ Herald

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