Victoria Lee

Student spotlight details

Victoria pursued the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development to help answer strategic design questions related to her work in Muscat, Oman.

'Before enrolling on the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development, I worked for three years in the Cities Programme at Design Council in London, UK. As a Senior Advisor, I helped to ‘tackle major societal challenges, drive economic growth and innovation, and improve the quality of the built environment through strategic design reviews and support on large-scale development, masterplans and infrastructure projects. This role provided me with unique insights into the design, planning and development processes as I worked at the intersection of the public, private and third sectors.

'Shortly before I applied to the programme, I was involved in an incredibly interesting and challenging project in Muscat, Oman. Madinat Al Irfan was set to be a new city in a dry, barren desert to the west of the city for 100,000+ people. New housing, civic and cultural buildings, and landscape were required in addition to transport, energy and digital infrastructure. I travelled to Oman for this project and better understood the enormity of the project and its ambition. The project highlighted complex city-scale issues that I had not yet encountered through my work in architecture, urban design and planning in the UK – how to develop the culture of sustainable transport in a car-reliant society, how to design for changing and extreme climatic conditions, and how to balance the need for water and the use of energy? These were just some of the many strategic design questions being asked. I pursued the MSc with these strategic questions, particularly in international contexts, in mind.

'I found the essays most challenging. Coming from an architectural and urban design background, I had not written lengthy, let alone critical essays, in my previous undergraduate or postgraduate degrees. Initially, I felt as though this held me back, but later on I recalibrated architectural concepts to help define and stabilise my arguments. In addition, the process of essay writing alongside full-time employment was challenging and required discipline. This became more difficult towards the latter half of the degree when the essays also coincided with the dissertation research.

'My research dissertation on the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) was the most rewarding and enjoyable aspect of the degree. It brought together three of my professional and academic interests – legacy, megaprojects and urban governance. I investigated the meaning of the term ‘legacy’ to LLDC, and how this meaning is interpreted through the planning process and realised in developments thereafter. This study also built upon my previous postgraduate thesis on the masterplan for the London 2012 Olympic Games and my work with another development corporation - Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation – through the Design Council.

'Since the MSc finished I’ve been catching up on the things that I love but missed out on over the past two years – sleeping in, spending quality time with close friends and family, travelling abroad to beautiful places and meeting new people. Importantly, the degree has expanded my fervour and curiosity about design, planning, development and importantly governance in the UK and internationally. Since completing the degree, I apply this mindset to my work in urban design, planning and development.

'The degree provides the opportunity to go beyond the status quo and deliver real change. It has expanded my knowledge, network and life experience. I trusted my instincts and applied, and now I feel truly grateful and fulfilled by the experience. I was supported by my family, friends, peers and tutors along this journey, and those who helped though Crowdfunding. Go for it!'

Learn more: