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Henri Poincaré quote - SOP for Ph.D in Urban Planning

Ngoc 1 / 3  
Dec 7, 2009   #1
Dear all,

Please help me with SOP for Ph.D in Urban Design/Urban Planning.
Any criticism is welcome.
Thank you so much



The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he's one who asks the right question
Henri Poincaré

The year 1997 was my last year at the architectural program, I had to complete a graduate project as the requirement for my architecture degree, as the same time I wanted to do, independently, a student research project. Not many students did that in senior year because of the burden to do two things at one time, but I did because I had questions that needed to be answer. These thorny questions have been obsessed Vietnamese scholars since the country has started modernization and industrialization: "What is the Vietnamese traditional architecture? How can we build architecture with strong Vietnamese characteristics?" I came up with the solution that I thought feasible at that time. My project was awarded the Second Prize by the Student Research Committee at H University of Construction. Many years later, when I look back I realize that how naïve and impractical my solution was. Since that time I have continued to grapple with the issue of Vietnamese traditional architecture. To my disappointment, I have not found the answer; our Vietnamese scholars are not in a better position. They seem not to give satisfactory answers.

The essence of the issue is to ask the right questions.

I need to find the right ones.

This thinking built up an inner motivation that leads me to the idea that I must do a systematic study at a higher educational level. Seven years later the opportunity emerged when I was awarded as one of the twenty six people chosen from all over of Vietnam for the L Scholarship to study at the Master level in the United States. This chance opened the whole new world and new ideas to me. I was happy to know and learn from my American peers and many people from other parts of the globe, to absorb valuable knowledge and skills that professors provided. One of my favourite classes is Land Use Planning by professor CE. In his class, he introduced us "A Pattern of Language" by Christopher Alexander. I was stricken by the thoughtful ideas and the beauty of pattern language that he delivers. He observes and contemplates building cultures of many countries and distills them into the building patterns that are intrinsic to people into the form of library of 253 patterns.

Hence, I then realized that instead of asking "What is the Vietnamese traditional architecture?" or "How can we build an architecture with strong Vietnamese characteristics?" I should ask "What kind of an architecture is intrinsic for a place?" or "How can we build the architecture that builds the bond between people and place where they live?" Thus, I do not need to seek out the answer for Vietnamese traditional architecture; once we have architecture that is intrinsic to people, to build bonds between people and place we shall have the Vietnamese architecture naturally. "A Pattern of Language" gives these answers.

After graduation with excellent performance from Urban Planning Program of KK University, I came back to continue to work in Vietnam as a lecturer at D University- College of Engineering- one of the three best technical colleges in Vietnam. There I had a chance to promote good urban planning practice through teaching and consulting. On once occasion, I wrote a Proposal "Solutions for the dilemma of urban planning problems of H City" and sent this Proposal to the mayor and officials of H City- a middle size city having a charming quarter filled with beautiful traditional buildings and finely urban landscape. The proposal received encouragement from the mayor who is famous for determination and actions in preserving Old Quarter of H. Later, I have many occasions to work with H government on various issues from preservation to economic development to promulgate good planning. Nevertheless, there was political and financial constrains making new ideas hardly accepted. For myself, sometimes I felt frustrate because I was confused by what way should H be developed. Should I encourage people implement Smart Code? Should I tell them about LEED-ND?

I then backed with "A Pattern Language" and I run across Christopher's "The Nature of Order." That was a profound moment, the beauty of truth. I was enlightened to know that the issues of preservation and economic development of Hoian can be approached with a generative process by Christopher Alexander . In "The Nature of Order" the generative process provides a holistic sustainable method in architecture and urban design. It views planning actions have to be built upon the existing conditions in order to improve and heal the existing wholeness and to build a new wholeness. From the generative process, Christopher Alexander builds a generative code- an urban coding that is totally different from conventional zoning or even an innovative Smart Code. This one is an adaptive code aims to build new whole from the existing whole, therefore it has capacity of creating a harmonious and sustainable urban form. It does not accept predetermined forms and patterns likes Smart Code.

Having said that does not means that everything is done and we just import a generative code to H. Still far from the truth, there are a lot of work should be completed before H and other Vietnamese cities be in the right tracks of sustainability. Therefore, a generative code helps to figure out the right way. In addition, a generative code still faces challenges because it is hard to be popularized like a Smart Code. In fact, a generative code requires a one-off process and care among collaborators.

One of the solutions for this challenge is to study conditions where a generative code be implemented. There is idea likes a generative code should be integrated into the existing planning system likes the ADN of a virus inserts itself into the "host cells". When it is in the "host cells", the generative code will populate at exponential rates much more than other standardized codes. Other areas that need to be explored such as to empower local communities by institutions likes community trust structures or fixing economic challenges by complementary money.

For the Ph.D enquiry, I want to find answers for the right questions such as: "How could a generative code be inserted into existing planning system?" Or "What innovation in financial and political structure should be made so that a generative code can be developed?" My intended Ph.D. research will use a comparative investigation in conditions of implementation of the generative code in developed countries like America and another developing countries like Vietnam. Last but not least, the new science of complexity has developed in mathematics like chaos theory; it also spins off into biophilia, computer science, game theory and neuroscience. Although a beginner in this field, one with a scientific mind, I believe that I am ready to explore new advances in the science of complexity. Along with the conventional quantitative method, the insight from the science of complexity will benefit my study the conditions and innovations needed for successful implementation of the generative code.

AAA University is among the top universities in the U.S because of its distinguished educational and research reputation. It is the home of School of GS and Urban Planning and the School of Sustainability with the world's renowned professors and researchers in the sustainable area and interdisciplinary studies. I have had the privilege of exchanging research ideas with Professor ET- one of the world's prominent scholars in the field of urban coding and I am extensively reading her work. I think that her anthological project on urban coding is very important and I will benefit from working under her mentorship. I believe that I am qualified to study the generative code and new innovative changes in political, economic and social attitude needed to accept it. It is my plan to engage in research at the School of GS and Urban Planning and to prepare myself in both advanced theoretical methods and the newest practices in this field. I will make my best efforts to contribute to the advancement of urban coding after my graduation from AAA University and to help in building sustainable codes for Vietnamese cities.

It seems unusual when looking for a question in architecture that I met a question of planning. But the bond comes out naturally when I see a thread runs through my life. That thread strings the first childhood days when I picked up the first color chalks to the day I dreamed of the places loved by people, to the moment I write the first lines of the Proposal to establish a new architecture department that aims to integrate the best architecture and urban planning agendas into one program at our college, and to the very moment I write this words to ask about rules guiding the sustainable urbanism. Since the question is not the answer, but the question is the first step toward everything. I believe that I found the right question and AAA University is the place where allows me to find an answer

bankafirekn1ght - / 6  
Dec 9, 2009   #2
I had to do a graduate project and as the same time I wanted to do Student Research project.

at the same time

The 'So' in the beginning of the fifth paragraph is too informal. I would leave it out.

I love how you frame your statement around asking the right question. So many people start their essays with quotes that are only tangentially related. Nice work!

Nevertheless, generative code is not a new strange in history

should this be stage?

Your statement is strong but a little wordy. In the middle it reads more like a book review. I would minimize the technical discussion

There are areas need to be explored such as empower local communities by institution likes community land trust or complementary money.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. It sounds like something was put into an automated translator and this is what came out (not consistent with the strong, clear voice you have throughout most of the essay).

I would not repeat the quote but rephrase it or just jump right in with that second sentence of your conclusion. Very good essay.

Good luck!
OP Ngoc 1 / 3  
Dec 11, 2009   #3
Thank you EF_Susan and Bankafirekn1ght.

I will revise the statement and fix grammatical errors. I also know that it sounds like a book review :-)). Would you guys have enough patience to look over again the new revised essay?

Thank you so much

EF_Kevin 8 / 13,335 129  
Dec 18, 2009   #4
...wanted to conduct an independent research projec t. Not many students did that during senior year because of...

I think this should all be put together at the start of paragraph 2:

The essence of the issue is to ask the right questions. I need to find the right ones. This thinking built up an inner...

Then, you have to include a sentence that mentions "asking the right questions" somewhere in para #2. That will make a very nice flow of ideas at the start. This is already a very impressive essay, though!!
OP Ngoc 1 / 3  
Dec 18, 2009   #5
Thank you so much for your help. EF_Kevin. I will made the change and ...apply.
ddzhangzz 2 / 2  
Dec 19, 2009   #6
Nice essay! I did find some minor things though;

In this project I tried to answer thorny questions that were obsessing Vietnamese scholars; "What is the...

I came up with the solution that I thought feasible at that time.

Then My project was awarded the Second Prize at Student Research...

Recently, I have chanced to read Christopher Alexander's work.

I was awakened to the fact that I did not ask the right question.

Instead of asking, "What is the Vietnamese traditional architecture?

One of the solutions for this challenge is to improve generative code.

The idea is that generative code should be integrated into existing planning systems like...

I want to find the answers to questions such as: "How could a generative code insert into existing planning system?"

... School of Planning and prepare myself for both advanced theoretical methods and the newest experimental methods in this field.

But if we look back into urban planning history, we should see that once, architecture and urban planning were inseparable.

... but as many scholars in the urban planning field point out...

I believe that I found the right questions and BBB is the place where I will find the answers.
OP Ngoc 1 / 3  
Dec 25, 2009   #7
Thank you Dadong Zhang and all dear people for your help and Happy Hollidays.

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