Planning History: A Few of the City and Metropolitan Plans You Should Know

Ann Forsyth

Professor of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University.

Last month I highlighted some important places in the history of planning. Responding to student requests, this month I turn to plans. I picked plans from the last 101 years, mostly in English, that are well known, that demonstrate important planning ideas, and that had some presence on the web. These plans are typically for existing cities and metropolitan regions. Of course there are many, many more which is why student questions about what they should know about are so difficult for faculty to answer. Coming up in future blogs are lists of plans for new towns and new neighborhoods as well as key planning processes.

  • 1909 Plan of Chicago, an early city-beautiful plan sponsored by the Commercial Club and created by Burnham and Bennett. Dealing with architecture, regional transportation, and open space, and copiously illustrated with scenes from around the world, it has been reprinted. Well known for skimming over the social problems that were obvious in Chicago in the period, it however remains a rich and interesting document. Though not a plan, John Reps’ collection of source materials in planning 1794-1918 provides interesting context from this period:
  • 1944 Greater London Plan, under Abercrombie, an important early metropolitan plan promoting greenbelts and planned decentralization. I recently picked up a used copy for $13 on Amazon. The 1929 Regional Plan for New York and Environs—is also key but harder to locate.
  • 1947 Copenhagen Finger Plan (represented by the picture of a hand) proposed the idea of a transit oriented metropolitan area developed along five corridors or finger. The Green Heart—the green area in the center of the Dutch Randstad or ring city of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Urtrecht and The Hague is a similarly compelling image representing a planning idea, emerging a little later, in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Cairo has had a sequence of master plans (e.g. 1956, 1970, 1983) and it is instructive to look at such sequences—what worked and what didn’t. Another plan is in preparation.
  • 1961 Alternate Plan for Cooper Square, under Walter Thabit, representative of a wave of community-orientned plans coming as a reaction to urban renewal and modernism. Not quite at the city scale but an important type. The Cleveland Policy Plan of 1975 is another of this new generation of more socially-oriented plans and is a national planning landmark:
  • 1962 Delhi Master Plan with input from the Ford Foundation This document is emblematic of a number of plans in poorer countries in this period had technical assistance from abroad. A famous example is the Ciudad Guayana planning process of the 1960s with technical assistance from Harvard and MIT.
  • 1994 Portland 2040 Growth Concept—the early background where Caltorpoe and collegues represented alternative redevelopment options were in paper and while much distributed at the time can also be hard to find these days. Perhaps I’ll scan mine and put them online.
    • In this period of the last 20 years there have been many different attempts at a new generation of sustainability-oriented metropolitan plans—Sydney’s metropolitan plans are of this genre with the latest, City of Cities: A Plan for Sydney’s Future, was released in 2005.
    • Nairobi Metro 2030 was released in 2008—with more of a focus on social and economic issues and some support from UN-HABITATheadquartered in the city.
  • 1985 to present: World Habitat Awards, started in 1985, include plans as well as projects and feature a variety of innovations. Many plans are smaller scale but not all:
    • The Ballybane Neighborhood—a mixed income neighborhood including members of the Traveler community in Galway, Ireland, was developed using the tool of an “integrated Master Plan”.
    • The ZukunftsWerkStadt Leinefelde, a project in the former East Germany, to redevelop modernist housing projects, deal with depopulation, and promote economic development, again using an “integrated master plan”.
    • Curitiba is also featured (See last month’s column on places) including their 1966 master plan
  • 1999 European Spatial Development Perspective and the 2007 policy paper, the Territorial Agenda for the European Union represent attempts to foster sustainable development and cohesion at a continental scale: