Imagining an Alternative History for the Planning Profession

In Amanda Erickson's explanation of the history of urban planning, the profession as conceived at the start of the 20th century confronted a choice between creating beautiful people or beautiful cities. Why couldn't planners have created both?

1 minute read

August 29, 2012, 8:00 AM PDT

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj

In the years before urban planning crystallized as a distinct profession, Erickson sees the influence of "three types of people thinking about how a city
should look and function - architects, public health officials, and
social workers."

According to Erickson, at America's first urban planning conference, held in New York in 1898, "and in the years that followed, any one of these
early urban planning strains could have taken over as the intellectual
giant in the field. Though the social workers and the public health
officials continued to play a role, urban planning's intellectual
history ended up grounded in architecture."

In this "brief history," Erickson concludes that the profession's grounding in design and physical space led directly to the use of planning as a tool for oppression. "As Stuart Meck, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers explains,
cities used urban planning not to build better, or cleaner, or morally
uplifting cities. They used planners to divide the city, creating
beautiful spaces at the expense of the poor." 


Friday, August 24, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities

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