Thursday 30 January 2014

Project briefing at University of Moratuwa

Students began their first day at the University of Moratuwa with a welcome from Faculty staff, a briefing on the studio site from Sri Lankan students and staff and a lecture on environmental sensitivity and   development assessment techniques by Department of Town and Country Planning member Chethika Abenayake.

University of Moratuwa Campus

Site briefing from Uni of Moratuwa students 

Lecture by Chethika Abenayake on site assessment techniques
After lunch and the last minute sorting out of SIM cards, money and other necessities, we departed for the project site of a Weligama (approx a 4 hour bus trip) via the new Southern Expressway. With a full day of site assessments ahead, an early night was called for! We will visit the key sites around Weligama and assign project teams for studio work - more to follow on these exciting projects soon!
La Trobe and Moratuwa students on the way to Weligama

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Colombo urban reconnaissance tour

Colombo is a metropolis of extremes as we witnessed yesterday on our exciting bus tour. Our guide, KD, is a very funny and charismatic former lecturer from the University of Moratuwa. KD's sense of humour kept us engaged and responsive. As an example, he mentioned that if I had tipped the snake charmer we came across anymore money that he would have expected me to marry him! His knowledge of local history and urban futures gave us a deeper understanding of urban development issues. These issues mainly came down to limited available land and funding, increased pressure on infrastructure as a result of urban migration, environmental issues, and also heritage preservation.

KD Fernando from the University of Moratuwa leading the urban reconnaissance tour of Colombo
The historical elements of Colombo are not dissimilar to that of Bendigo or Melbourne as they have each experienced early British influence as suggested by the prevalence the old Victorian-styled buildings. There has been notable effort placed into restoring a good portion of these buildings, however, there many that have been let go. Important institutions such as the government and various business sectors are held in strong regard as demonstrated by the grandeur of their accompanying uni
buildings. In Colombo, contemporary architecture is about making a statement, and this is achieved
by sheer size or dramatic design. The new buildings such  as the 'lotus-shaped' National Theatre are a way of branding the 'new' Colombo to the world around them; ushering themselves into the global market.

Colonial architecture on Galle Road

Regarding infrastructure pressures, the roads are constantly buzzing with activity. I am very thankful
for our competent bus driver as it feels at times we are almost a breath away from oncoming traffic. Despite the constant beeping and congestion I would consider the road network surprisingly
functional for motorised transport, however, less so for tourists attempting to cross the street. All in all, Colombo is a city with a big vision for the future, addressing the above planning concerns will position them well in the ever-evolving Asian centred market.

- Kristina Murray, Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning
Fourth Year

Monday 27 January 2014

Welcome to Singapore!

Welcome to Singapore!                                                                 

Friday - After arriving in Singapore off a 7 hour flight, we were excited to have a look around the vibrant neighbourhood we were staying in.

Even though we arrived at night, it was immediately apparent we were in a very interesting place. The tree lined freeway from the airport, abundance of parks and gardens along with buildings with green walls showed that this technologically advanced city has strong ties with nature and is striving to be a leader in the green city and lifestyle movement. 

One of the first things you want to do when entering a new culture is try the food so that is what we did. The menus can often be misleading; as some students ordered vegetables and noodles in oyster sauce – they received steamed bok choy.

Saturday - Some were organized to get up early enough to find somewhere for breakfast while the majority just ate whatever they could find, even if it was a curry that turned out to be too hot to handle. (Shops don’t open until around 11am so breakfast was difficult to find)

The architecture was incredibly interesting as the mix of older housing with contemporary housing didn’t clash but seemed to compliment each other.

Our first stop was the Singapore Urban Development Authority. This was a great introduction to an even greater city as it allowed us to get our bearings in this fast paced Asian metropolis. Interestingly 85% of Singaporeans reside in high density residences which explains why the urban area is small in comparison to cities like Melbourne.

The higher densities have allowed for an extremely efficient public transport system. If you miss a train you only have to wait about 3 minutes for the next one, refreshing for anyone from Melbourne!

Interactive screens, games and miniature cityscapes allowed us to learn much of the cities urban form and how Singaporeans live and interact with their environment at the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Saturday night provided some fun for some students who went to the Chinese New Year celebrations. Markets lined the streets with thousands of people out enjoying the festivities. 

Stay tuned for the next blog from our adventures as there may or not be footage of a lecturer falling off his bike. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out who it is ;)

- Leon Tremain, Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning
Fourth Year 

Monday 20 January 2014

Anticipating the unknown - a student's perspective

Highlighting a series of expectations for this international study tour is difficult. Especially considering that I will be exposed to foreign cultural, political and environmental elements that help shape Sri Lanka. I have rarely experienced the conditions in a developing nation firsthand and this presents a challenge --  how can I identify the solutions or appropriate responses to planning practice matters in Sri Lanka, if I lack an understanding of how these elements function in a developing nation in the first place?

An open mind should help uncover the appropriate stance and response to the planning practice issues at stake, whilst broadening my horizon in the process. Setting aside any preconceived judgements and opinions that are the cultural roots of my cognitive development in Australia may provide a greater chance to facilitate this learning process.

Finally, I find it much easier to state what I am looking forward to - the food, the culture, the scenery, the practical planning experience and it wouldn’t hurt to get amongst the nightlife and leisure activities. Overall, I am anticipating an adventure and an exciting opportunity to try new things, especially those that place me outside my comfort zone.

Isaac Sharp
Third Year - Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning

Upcoming Singapore and Sri Lanka Study Tour Jan – Feb 2014

On 24 January, an excited group of 25 planning and community development students (undergraduate and post graduate) will depart for an intensive 2-week study tour to Sri Lanka. The study tour will include a brief stopover in Singapore to study urban development in the city-state.

Whilst the study tour to Sri Lanka will be a first for all students involved, it builds on a number of previous tours to various parts of the country (Trincomalee, Hambantota and Uwa). The visit also builds on our longstanding partnership with the University of Moratuwa, Colombo which emanated from the Planning Institute of Australia’s post-tsunami reconstruction project involving lecturer and course founder Trevor Budge and has led to a number of joint student projects and the creation of a dual degree in planning.

The 2014 tour will involve a collaborative project with planning students from the University of Moratuwa and a planning and development studio undertaken at Weligama on the southern coast,  affected by the 2004 Tsunami.   

Next up – how students are anticipating the trip.
Weligama, Sri Lanka - project site
Source: Wikipedia

Welcome to the International Planning Studio Blog

The purpose of this blog is to document, reflect and share students’ experiences and observations of international study tours as part of the subject International Planning Studio.

The Community Planning and Development Program runs regular international study tours, with over 150 students having taken part in trips to North America, Asia and Europe since the subject's inception.  The studio uses international field studies to develop an understanding of global planning issues, urban and community development and cross-cultural planning practice, within developed and developing world cities.

As part of the studio, students complete fieldwork and project activities involving collaborative study and practice with an international planning agency or university.

This blog will provide an insight into each international planning studio as it unfolds and will explore issues such as international planning and development, cross-cultural planning practice, specific site visits, lifestyle, travel, and urban life.

Next up - details on Sri Lanka Study Tour 2014.

Students experiencing local transport during 2012 Sri Lanka Study Tour