Planning History: A Few of the Late 19th and 20th Century Places you Should Know

Ann Forsyth's picture

Earlier blogs have explored books and journals for finding out about the basics of planning history. In this blog I add to this by listing a just few of the places it is important to recognize as a planner. It is of course difficult to make such lists but students ask for them with some frequency. Of course, places are one thing and planning processes quite another--and in planning process is very important. Upcoming blogs will deal with plans and processes. 

  1. Hull House, Chicago, is emblematic of places that housed social programs important in the early development of urban planning as we know it. Of course the programs mattered more than the buildings but the buildings can be instructive, 1880s:
  2. Letchworth, England, is part of a larger tradition of garden suburbs and later new towns, this is the classic garden city based on Ebenezer Howard's ideas, 1900s:
  3. Radburn, New Jersey, is a key project of the Regional Planning Association of America, demonstrating and popularizing neighborhood planning principles, such as superblocks, that would be widely adopted for good and for bad, 1920s:
  4. Pruitt Igoe, St. Louis, MO, is famous as one of the first large high-rise public housing developments to be demolished, though management played a huge role in its failure, 1950s to 1970s. Demolished, part of the site has been redeveloped:
  5. Hong Kong's and Singapore's new town programs were influenced by garden city ideas and modernism, these new towns featured many high rise housing units integrated with larger social and economic programs. They achieved many of their aims. Singapore's new towns, the first dating from the 1950s, have won two World Habitat awards: and Hong Kong's program dates from the 1970:s
  6. Curitiba, Brazil, demonstrates fairly top-down innovation, in this case in transit and general urban planning and revitlalization, 1960s on: Of course Bogota, Colombia, has done similar work and is often cited as well: Here's Randy Crane's comparison:
  7. Faneuil Hall Market Place, Boston, Massachusetts, is the classic festival market place since copied in many places around the world, 1970s:
  8. Kentlands, Maryland, was for a long time the most complete new urbanist village, 1980s. It is a reminder that it is hard for new ideas to get fully implemented:
  9. Favela Bairro project in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is an example of a city led program with some local scale participation dealing with multiple small favelas and providing physical infrastructure and some social services, 1990s: and The Dignified Places Program in Capetown, South Africa, though focused primarily on public spaces, has a similar approach of multiple small interventions:
  10. Bilbao's redevelopment in the Basque region of Spain is important because it generated the term, the Bilbao effect, using star architecture to promote economic development, 1990s: and 
This is my June blog, a few days late. I know there are lots of other places--in different parts of the world and in different time periods--but this is a start toward a manageable list!
Ann Forsyth is professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.



Pruitt Igoe Location

Pruitt Igoe was in St. Louis, MO, not Illinois.
Great list otherwise!


Kentlands is located within the City of Gaithersburg and it came about because of the vision and dedication of Gaithersburg planners, leaders and citizens.

Michael La Place AICP, PP

Major USA Planned Communities of the 20th Century

I am surprised that a major master planned new community in the USA did not make it to Professor Forsyth's list of late 19th and 20th Century places to know. She has written extensively about several of them--Columbia (between Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD), The Woodlands (about 27 miles north of downtown Houston, TX) and Irvine (in Orange County, CA, about 40 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, CA.) See her excellent book, Reforming Suburbia: The Planned Communities of Irvine, Columbia and The Woodlands. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005.

Ann Forsyth's picture

Thanks for helpful comments!

Thanks for these comments (particularly for picking up the inexcusable slip on Pruitt Igoe--now corrected). While I did not want to bias my list too far toward new towns--given my interest in them--look for an upcoming blog on important planned communities.

Mariemont, Ohio

Ann, interesting list you've put together. I'd add to your list John Nolen's planned town of Mariemont, Ohio, developed in the early 1920s. I posted a report on my visit there at:

Wayne Senville
Editor, Planning Comm'rs Journal

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