AU Community Planning program debuts new smart planning and design lab

The following article is replicated  from the Auburn University College of Liberal Arts’ Perspectives.

The Master of Community Planning (MCP) program may be the newest member of the College of Liberal Arts family, but they are already busy contributing to the academic and outreach missions of the college. Most recently, MCP combined CLA’s cutting-edge technologies with their current urban design studio to create a new smart planning and design lab.

With bright paint and movable furniture, the new design lab (located in Haley Center 3206) is an open, versatile space that encourages creativity and collaboration. The classroom’s flexibility is designed to accommodate community planning’s studio courses as well as other seminar, engaged learning, and lecture classes in the Department of Political Science. It boasts an Apple TV, glass drawing panels, drafting desks, and ample magnetic white board space. The Apple TV includes the capability for each student to electronically send what is on their personal laptop to the screen in order to share their work with their classmates. The classroom also includes a large-scale color plotter that allows them to print and scan high-quality posters in house to display to their clients.

“The new lab is a vital part of the overall community planning curriculum and experience, as well as a valuable addition to the Department of Political Science, the larger CLA family, and Auburn student body,” says Jocelyn Zanzot, community planning professor. Zanzot is excited to see how the new technology enhances her students’ collaboration and final products in her Synthesis Studio course.

The design studio will be used primarily by two classes in the community planning program—Urban Design Studio and Synthesis Studio—in addition to other political science courses. The Synthesis Studio is the capstone course for students in their final semester of the program and applies theory from all community planning courses to an actual local problem for a real client.

This semester, the Synthesis Studio class is collaborating with the City of Montgomery Planning and Development Departments on the “U.S. Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge: Beyond Traffic” project. The project challenges cities to plan innovative improvements to the transportation and overall livability of their communities.

For their synthesis project, MCP students will develop comprehensive revitalization district-scale plans specifically for the Rosa Parks neighborhood and the Westside of Montgomery. As part of their capstone course, the project tests students’ ability to use their acquired knowledge to draw upon local resources and invent new economic opportunities for the city of Montgomery. This type of hands-on community engagement is important to MCP as it provides students with the experience of working as a community planner before they even graduate.

“The best part about the program is its comprehensive approach to design. They have real life projects in almost every course,” says Sagar Hiware, a MCP student from India. “So you get a chance to interact with real communities, public organizations, and cities. You have opportunities to be a part of something that is being done, and you can see it.”

Hiware believes the new studio is a significant addition to MCP and will impact his design work and his professional experiences in the program.

“Community Planning is delighted to bring the skills and practices of regional, urban, and community planning to the college,” says Zanzot. “It is an exciting master’s program that trains students to plan and design, preserve and revitalize small towns, urban centers, and regions across Alabama and around the world.”

For more information about the Master of Community Planning program, visit their website.

Written by Bethany Broderick, graduate assistant in the Office of External Affairs for the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University.