2. The City of Dreadful Night
In Chapter 2, “The City of Dreadful Night,” Hall discusses the terrible working and living conditions in cities during the industrial revolution. The living conditions in Victorian London and other industrialized cities, caused by migration and economic restructuring, led to revolts, middle class fears of working class revolts and a growing number of researchers and reformers interested in learning more about or improving conditions in cities. There were significant fears of revolt in London in the 1880s following the 1884 Reform Act. The rapid growth of urban population created various problems and required innovative engineering, like Bazalgette’s sewer plan to stop waste from directly entering the Thames and causing cholera outbreaks.
Researchers like Charles Booth and Jacob Riis worked to understand and expose poor living and working conditions in London and New York, respectively. Jacob Riis, in his book How the Other Half Lives, described the terrible, overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions in the tenements that were packed with new immigrants. As a result of the growing awareness and concern about the working class and new immigrants, the voluntary movement emerged with reformers aiming to improve urban conditions. One of the greatest leaders within the voluntary movement was Jane Addams, who, in Chicago, established Hull House, a settlement house that worked to educate and improve the living conditions of the working class and focused efforts largely on educating women. In the UK, one movement aimed at improving working class conditions was planned decentralization, where the London County Council actively bought land for home and estate construction.
4. The City in the Garden
One of the movements that developed largely in response to the problems of the industrial city of the Victorian Era was the Garden City movement. Ebenezer Howard was the driving force behind the Garden City movement. He was born in London, emigrated to the United States and spent time living in Nebraska and then Chicago before returning to the United Kingdom. Ebenezer Howard was likely shaped by his time spent in London as well as his likely exposure to Riverside, the garden suburb outside of Chicago that was planned by Frederick Law Olmstead. Howard also drew on the ideas of various predecessors who also imagined model cities with green belts or a central city surrounded by peripheral industries. Ebenezer Howard’s idea of the garden city was also inspired by the Thomas More’s concept of Utopia, which involved no private property and the establishment of new satellites after a certain population was reached.
Ebenezer Howard sought to combine the economic and social opportunities of the city with the fresh air and nature of the countryside, envisioning a type of settlement called “Town-Country” that would be established by commercially competent people who could draw industrialists and their factories to form the basis of a new city and also bring along workers who could build their own houses. Like in More’s Utopia, Howard’s garden city would have fixed population limits and once a city’s limit was reached, a new garden city would start nearby. All of the cities would be connected via a strong transit system.
Various cities and towns were created using utopian ideas like those from Ebenezer Howard and others. Industrialists frequently pioneered these efforts. For example, the Cadbury brothers moved their factory 4 miles south of Birmingham and established Bournville, a model village that would provide their workers with a higher standard of living.
While the Garden City and similar Utopia-inspired development may have been imagined with the best of intentions, results were generally far from ideal. Social systems were treated as though they were less important than layout, industry was not always attracted to a garden city and eventually commuter satellites, rather than garden cities, began to dominate the landscape. Ebenezer Howard’s ideas, however, played a large role in 20th century urban and regional planning.5. The City in the Region
Patrick Geddes is credited as being the father of regional planning. A unique individual, Geddes was influenced by Auguste Comte, the father of sociology, and Frederic Le Play. Geddes coined the term “conurbation” and produced the mantra “survey before plan.” Although Geddes was not particularly coherent, he passed his philosophy on regions along to Lewis Mumford. Geddes determined that, as demonstrated by his succinct mantra, planning had to start with a survey of a region’s resources, human response to those resources and the resulting cultural landscape.
Geddes saw the city as a collection of interdependent parts and felt that society was malleable and that the role of a planner was to use physical design to influence social evolution.
Following in the footsteps of Geddes was Patrick Abercrombie, who was most well known for his county and regional plans for post-World War II London. Inspired by Geddes, Abercrombie held fast to the “survey before plan” mantra.
Thanks to Lewis Mumford and others, the Regional Planning Association of America came into existence in the form of a small group in 1923. The Association developed an agenda that included the creation of garden cities within a regional framework, development of regional projects and surveys of key areas like the Tennessee Valley Basin, among other plans.
President Roosevelt, during the recovery following the Great Depression, established the Tennessee Valley Authority and in doing so created a regional river-basin planning authority.
7. The City of Towers
“The City of Towers” addresses modernism in planning and begins by discussing the architect Le Corbusier. Corbusier came from a family of watchmakers and was a Swiss Calvinist. These likely instilled in him a strong sense of order, which her brought with him to Paris, a city that, according to the architect, needed saving that could only be accomplished by great men who could “dominate and compel the mob (Hall, 1988: 207).
Le Corbusier received bourgeois patronage that allowed him to create plans for a new modernist city, or the Corbusian Ideal City. Le Corbusier set out a famous paradox: “we must decongest the centres of our cities by increasing their density. In addition, we must improve circulation and increase the amount of open space (Hall, 1988: 207). Le Corbusier envisioned this being accomplished through constructing high buildings that covered a relatively small area of ground.
Le Corbusier also called for the total new construction of this type of settlement, determining that old city centres must be completely demolished to allow for the construction of the new, ideal plans.
Other important contributors to modernity in planning were Marx and Engels, who determined that there was alienation that resulted from modern production methods, and Marshall Berman.
Modernity encompasses a never-ending struggle between order and incessant change. It is characterized partly by its freedom from tradition, discipline and order, and celebration of the new. In architecture and design, this translates into simplified form, form that follows function, and a rejection of ornamentation, with simple and clear forms. According to le Corbusier, a house has two functions. One is to serve as a machine for living and the other is to provide tranquility to the mind. The house design should reflect these purposes.
Other important modernist planners and architects include Haussman, Soria y Mata, responsible for the linear city in Madrid, Frank Lloyd Write of the United States, and Lucio Costa, designer of Brasilia.
Certainly Le Corbusier and other modernists were forward-thinking and produced many great ideas that have rightly inspired many designs and plans. However, as demonstrated by some of the failings of urban renewal programs and attempts at providing low-income housing in the United States, the rejection of the old, ignorance of existing culture, traditions and preferences and, according to Jane Jacobs, blatant egotism, there are significant flaws in Le Corbusier plans and imitations.
8. The City of Sweat Equity
One response to the egotism and “planning from above” sense created by Le Corbusier and other modernists was that municipal housing and other planning was not a viable solution, since poor housing was a problem of the people and planning could only truly help if it was a “manifestation of communal collaboration.” This mindset forced many to recall Geddes.
One major and enduring critic of modernism, which was very exclusionary and rejected local culture and knowledge and spontaneity, was Jane Jacobs. Jacobs advocated for mixed use, short blocks, diverse building stock and high density that meant there would always be “eyes on the street,” in order to ensure greater community safety and a feeling of involvement. Another important figure was Paul Davidoff, who determined that planning was political, with different choices and judgments made throughout the planning process.
Krumholz and Forester, in Making Equity Planning Work (1990), put forth the idea of equity planning, which held that “planners should work for social change [and for the] substantive redistribution of resources (lecture slides).” This model wanted planners to be risk-taking and held an objective of redistribution.
Arnstein diagrammed, in the form of a ladder with rungs, citizen participation. This model held manipulation and nonparticipation at the bottom and each rung up the ladder signified increasing citizen involvement, with partnership, delegated power, and citizen control making up the ladder’s top three rungs.
Another important aspect to be taken into consideration in planning is subjectivity, which is social and is shaped, though not determined, by embodied knowledge and social location. Subjectivity shapes world view and there is no such thing as value-free planning.
11. The City of Enterprise
Urban decline in the 1960s and 1970s resulted from global economic and political restructuring. Industrial cities felt this urban decline most acutely, with a loss of population, a smaller tax base as a result of businesses and people leaving, and problems like arson and abandonment and growing crime and poverty as well as an increasing concentration of social services and welfare.
In the face of this set of challenges, planning in general adapted to focus less on control and more on growth. This growth took the form of urban renewal and entailed features like the demolition of structures and the relocation of existing businesses and residents.
One prime example of an urban renewal attempt is the London Docklands. The London Docklands had once been the greatest port in the world, but most of the system had been shut down by about 1980. Significant private investment occurred in the area and enterprise zones with favorable tax concessions were put into place to attract companies to the area. The London Docklands followed earlier American models by using relatively modest public funds to generate larger private investment.
While urban renewal and gentrification, on the surface, may appear cleaner and more attractive than whatever they are replacing, there may be a significant downside, or numerous losers, made apparent on a case-by-case basis. Eminent domain and less aggressive tactics can crowd out existing residents and businesses, potentially having a negative impact on culture. Gentrification can also crowd out low-income individuals and families.
Hall, P. (1988). Cities of tomorrow. Oxford: Basil Blackwood, Inc.