Students Answer the Big Question: 'What Is Urban Planning?'

Students Answer the Big Question: ‘What Is Urban Planning?’

Without urban planning, we can’t become regulars at the coffee shop down the street, we can’t frequent our local hole-in-the-wall deli, we can’t enjoy that spectacular view that keeps us from hating our desk job, we can’t reap the endless benefits of a walkable metropolis. We can’t work, we can’t shop, we can’t play — essentially, we can’t live. Urban planning is invariably essential for a high-functioning society. It’s our leavening agent — without it we can’t rise, grow or progress. Urban planning is taken for granted. Urban planning is misunderstood. Urban planning is overlooked. Urban planning is, wait … what is urban planning?

It’s a question Dan Sommerville and Betsy Cooper receive all too often. In attempts to answer the common inquiry, Sommerville, rising second-year Taubman graduate student in the school’s Master of Urban Planning program, and Cooper, who recently graduated from the program, created a video of illustrations, coupled with a voice-over, to explain their passion. Filmed by videographer Adam Smith, along with the original compositions of Douglas Smith, the short Vimeo film serves as not only an answer to the question, but a brief introduction to the study of urban planning. Inspired by the small talk of Thanksgiving dinner, (i.e. the all-too-familiar dinner table interrogations of ,“So, what are you doing with your young adult life?”), Sommerville and Cooper posed the question on the Facebook page of Agora (the college’s urban planning journal), just before the holiday break. After receiving a myriad of differing answers, the duo brainstormed drawings and monologue ideas based on the feedback, eventually deciding on a simplistic whimsical series of etchings drawn by Cooper, with various students’ laconic narrations.