Eva Herr

MSc Planning Practice and Research (2005)
Current Job: 
Planner/Urban Designer, Senator für Umwelt, Bau und Verkehr (Ministry for the Environment, Building and Transport), Bremen, Germany

Why did you choose Cardiff University as a place to study?

I went to Cardiff, because of its rating as one of the UK’s leading planning schools and the possibility to receive RTPI accreditation after one year of graduate studies

What was the best thing about your time as a student at Cardiff?

On a personal level, I have hugely enjoyed the friendships that developed during the year with people from India, the US, Greece, Portugal, China, South Africa, Poland and Germany. Some of those where lasting, and I have never before or afterwards been in an environment that was equally diverse.

From an academic level, Cardiff opened up a door to new ideas, concepts and ways of viewing the world. I always felt that studying at Cardiff was challenging, in a good way, and that I had to work hard. Yet it was a luxury to spend days in the library finding out about things. Learning to methodically acquire an understanding of new concepts, discuss them and develop an opinion has been valuable to this day.

What thing or person inspired you most whilst you were a Cardiff University student?

Several things made a lasting impression:

  • The opportunity to work and develop in a very diverse and open environment (in relation to the curriculum, the academic staff, but also in relation to my fellow students) has broadened my horizon and opened up a door to new ideas, concepts and cultures in a very valuable way. It taught me that nothing should be taken for granted, that one should remain open-minded, curious and willing to engage and debate.
  • It helped me to build a network and led to a few lasting friendships across several countries.
  • A sense of (academic) rigor coupled with open-mindedness
  • Some incidents related to cooking, cultural misunderstandings and fire alarm.

What one thing would you tell someone else about the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff?

One of the first things that impressed me about Cardiff was the fact that the planning course was ranked very highly, for example in the Times Good University Guide. Researching universities from abroad, I first was initially not sure how well founded various ranking lists on the internet were. Initially I had thought of applying in London. I finally did go to Cardiff, because contrary to most London universities, the one year planning course got RTPI accredited. The other major contributing factor for this decision was the very accessible and helpful staff at Cardiff prior to my application.

How did your degree most help you in the career or job you have now chosen?

In the short term, it helped me to get a good job in local government in England. Considering my background (a degree in architecture from Germany and close to three years working experience in the private sector), a graduate degree in planning from a UK university and the prospect of RTPI membership enabled me to get a job which I otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.

In the long term it has helped me to have a career with an academic background and professional experience both in the UK and Germany. The proven ability to work in different cultures and adapt to very different circumstances has been valued by a very large number of prospective employers. And have helped me to develop a good outlook on the world.

Tell us a bit about your current job, how you got into what you are doing and what you enjoy about it most.

After my graduation in 2005 I worked in local government England until 2010. I started as Urban Designer at Essex County Council and became Senior Urban Designer at Design for London. Both enabled me to combine my background in architecture with my background in planning. In October 2010 I took up a position in Bremen to project manage the development of a publically owned 14 ha inner city brownfield site. My main current responsibilities include the procurement and overseeing of baseline studies and the management of a public participation process.

I currently consider pursuing PhD studies in the UK. On one hand, this results from a desire to research an aspect of my professional work (participation on planning). On the other hand I would like to retain my connection to the UK and my ability to move between cultures, jobs and countries.

What opportunities do you feel have opened up to you as a result of being a student at the School of Geography and Planning?

Taking the question literally, studies in Cardiff gave me access to a range to specific job opportunities (and RTPI membership). More broadly, it enabled me to pursue a planning career in two different countries and become a bit more open minded about how things should be done.

Given that I had a degree in architecture, which is essentially a technical profession, the degree enabled me to appreciate academic concepts from the world of social sciences. I also see this as a good preparation for potential doctoral research.

Tell us any interesting facts about yourself, hobbies or interests that you have.

I have mostly been lucky enough to participate on interesting and demanding projects, so I don’t usually work 9 – 5. Embarrassingly, I’m quite fond of my job and have a keen interest in all sorts of things related to the built environment, so work and leasure are intertwined. (For example, during my last annual leave, former colleagues from London visited me in Bremen. We spent a few days in Bremen and Hamburg, looking at construction sites, ports and brownfield land.)

I nevertheless have a few other interests, which include dancing (salsa), cooking (to wind down) and keeping up with friends scattered across different countries. With my partner, who is an actor/filmmaker, I share an interest for exploring industrial areas, transport infrastructure and other random urban settings, which we both find quite fascinating.