Urban Planning in a Multicultural Society

By Michael A. Burayidi | Go to book overview
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In order to make future urban designers culturally, racially, ethnically, and gender informed, planning educators need to expose students to literature on physical space and its relationship to women, studies on cultural landscapes and indigenous architectural form, cross-cultural studies on form and use of space, cultural and spatial aspects of globalization and colonization, postmodern geographers' conception of space, and Foucault's treatise on space.

Educators should not only introduce the concepts of multiculturalism through readings and discussion, but should also use written assignments and graphic exercises. Following Ritzdorf s ( 1993) suggestion, students could be asked to interpret their own life experiences within a larger social or political context and relate them to urban design through written assignments. Graphical assignments, such as cognitive mapping, could be used to expose students to inner city neighborhoods and cities that have endured the brunt of industrial restructuring.

Despite my plea for a multicultural urban design pedagogy, I would like to end my discussion with two words of caution. First, we need not abandon traditional ways of teaching urban design or progress that has been made in terms of technology (see, for example, George 1995; Lynch 1990; Moudon 1992 and 1995). The task is to relate multiculturalism to the existing knowledge on urban design. Second, my relative success in incorporating multicultural issues may, in part, be attributed to my institutional setting at an HBCU, the department's and university's urban mission, and the availability of a city as a laboratory. Whether such an approach to teaching urban design will be successful at other institutions remains a matter of conjecture. Nonetheless, design educators could try to modify some of the suggestions presented here if we are to produce urban designers for the twentyfirst century.

In urban design diversity can also include designing for people with disabilities. This particular aspect of diversity is not discussed in this chapter. For a detailed discussion, see, for example, Imrie ( 1996).
The new criteria for accreditation was incorporated as a result of several commissions sponsored by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) to explore diversity in planning education. See Thomas ( 1996) for a detailed discussion.
"Diversity training" is simply defined as educating and consciousness raising on ethnic, racial, and gender differences.
HBCUs are generally defined as Black institutions of higher learning established prior to 1964 with the primary goal of educating African Americans. HBCUs must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or must be making an effort to get the accreditation. For a detailed discussion, see Myers ( 1987, 1992).
Kevin Lynch's work is a well-known example of a designer who "researched" better ways of designing cities ( Lynch 1960, 1981).
Some of these studies also provide normative perspectives.
The insights on the physical manifestation of industrial restructuring in small to medium- sized towns draw from a joint grant that I have with the School of Architecture at


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