Planning the Twentieth-Century City: The Advanced Capitalist World

Planning the Twentieth-Century City: The Advanced Capitalist World

Planning the Twentieth-Century City: The Advanced Capitalist World

Planning the Twentieth-Century City: The Advanced Capitalist World


This book reveals the complex interplay of planning ideas and practices between local, national and international levels throughout this century.

The book moves from German 'zoning', the aesthetics of grand urban and landscape design from France and the USA, and the utopian English idea of the 'garden city' through to the dynamism of the Asian tiger cities and the environmental ideology of the late 20th century. It creates an international body of knowledge and expertise.

With case material from major cities in Western Europe, North America, Australia and Asia, this book charts the changing centres of influence in planning and identifies the cities which will lead the way in the next century.


The 20th century was the most brutal and destructive hundred-year period in human history. More people were killed in its wars, large and small, than in any other century. At times, the will to destruction was so immensely overpowering that the very future of human life seemed to be threatened. Yet, at the same time, it was also the most civilising and creative of centuries. Many of the very technological advances that facilitated destruction also fed world economic growth on a scale never before seen. Huge improvements in agricultural efficiency and medical knowledge meanwhile allowed an unprecedented increase in world population, from perhaps 1.6 billion in 1900 to about 6.1 billion in 2000. By then over 3 billion people lived in cities, compared to perhaps 250 million in 1900. Cities everywhere have been the engines and the symbols of economic growth, intensifying production, distribution and consumption. Too often, however, large parts of them were, and remain, deeply unsatisfactory settings for human life.

Generally speaking, though, the richest nations of the world have also been those with the biggest proportions of their populations living in urban areas. It is not surprising therefore that, during the 20th century, the affluent nations devoted so much attention to ameliorating and, indeed, trying to perfect the city. The underlying aim was to reconcile its economic dynamism with its other roles as a social, cultural and political entity. By 1914, these efforts were sufficiently developed in most advanced capitalist countries to warrant being given a specific name, such as Städtebau, town planning, urbanisme, city planning, stedebouw, toshi keikatu or urbanismo. Despite this proliferation of nomenclature, however, each nation did not autonomously evolve the ideas which lay behind the various labels. Almost from the outset there was a vigorous crossnational interchange of ideas and practice. No single international label ever emerged but we use the generic term 'urban planning' when signifying this growing international body of thought and practice. Of course, the notion of consciously shaping the physical form and disposition of the urban environment was not itself without historical precedent. What was new to the late 19th and, more especially, the 20th centuries, was the idea of making urban planning an integral part of capitalist urban development within broadly liberal and democratic societies.

The story of how this happened forms the central concern of this book. It is, in other words, a wide and long survey of the development of urban planning in the advanced capitalist world during the 20th century. Its main concern is to explain how, where and why urban planning thought and practice developed and spread throughout western Europe, North America, Australia and Japan.


The ambition of this aim is self-evident. An earlier generation of urban-planning historians and commentators, such as Mumford (1961), Rom (1953) and Benevolo . . .

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