10 Questions for Thejas Jagannath

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Thejas Jagannath is a writer and post-graduate student studying geography at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. She’s written numerous articles on placemaking and planning including many for Parksify. I asked Thejas about her greatest inspiration, most recommended book, and more.

1. Who has been most influential in your career?

For my writing, it’s been the University environments I’ve been in and the feedback I’ve got from lecturers and peers. Also, being a writer for online platforms such as Medium, Parksify and Urban Times has been influential in understanding my writing skills and my passion for urbanism. My knowledge of urbanism and urban issues has mostly come from my education which has been a big part of my life. It was useful to put the knowledge I’ve learned at University to real practice while writing blogs or communicating about urban issues with other people. I still do not have a defined career path and there are many things I could do, such as become a planner or a writer or do research, indicating that my career path is still broad and open to hopefully make a difference to the world.

2. What inspired you to take up your work?

At this point in my life, I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in City Planning. I was always curious about urban issues and how people fit into the urban realm. This Masters has helped me discover more of my interests in planning issues and also has given me research experience that will be useful for the workplace and my future career. I am glad I can pursue my interests in public art this year for my thesis. The way people interact with public art and how art can transform human life is interesting to me and I’m happy that I can discover more about the topic in my research.

3. What is your favorite place to visit in your current hometown?

I am currently living in Dunedin, New Zealand. The beaches such as St Clair and St Kilda are enjoyable. The Dunedin Botanic Garden is also my favorite place to visit as I enjoy nature and a walk in the garden clears my mind during stressful times.

4. What urban policy news source do you tend to read most often?

I read online blogs specifically LSE Blogs on urban policy. The vast topic they cover and the issues that are raised by prominent academics is interesting and helps me learn more about the current urban issues. I also read Next City, Project for Public Spaces and similar online news sources that seem appealing to me.

5. What book would you most recommend to some at this moment?

Jan Gehl’s Cities for People is a good book for understanding public spaces. The work he has put to bring cities for people and not buildings is inspiring. It also suggests the power of observational analysis as a research tool, as just observing people’s behaviour in cities can give lots of insights into everyday city life.

6. What has been the most defining moment in your life?

I took a break from University from 2010–2015 and went back to India. I think I needed that break and it helped me hone my skills and gave me some real-world work experience which was useful. During that period I also understood that writing was something I really enjoyed. I always knew I could write essays, but never really understood it was something I could pursue further. Spending time with family and friends in India also helped me move forward and regain my strengths. I think it also prepared me better for postgraduate life at University and living independently in New Zealand which can sometimes be a challenge.

7. How do you spend your Sundays?

I usually meet a friend, or go to a cafe. I like taking small breaks so that I can refocus on my work.

8. If you could meet three people, living or dead, who would they be?

I would like to meet Jane Jacobs, Jan Gehl and Richard Florida. All urbanists and books I’ve enjoyed reading. Hopefully we’ll have some stimulating intellectual conversations :)

9. If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?

I would like to explore more of Europe, specifically Paris and Venice. I’ve always heard about the great architecture and boulevards in Paris and want to see it for myself. As Venice is the city of water, I want to see how they’ve managed to build it.

10. Coffee or tea?

Coffee most of the time! It just wakes me up more than tea does. 🍃