Going For the Gold: When Town Planning Was an Olympic Competition

In the first half of the 20th century, the Olympic games actually had a medal competition for town planning.

August 9, 2016, 5:00 AM PDT

By jwilliams @jwillia22


London 2012 Olympic Games

Alistair Ross / Flickr

In the four Olympic games between 1928 and 1948 (Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Berlin, and London), gold, silver, and bronze medals were handed out in the decidedly non-athletic competition of town planning. Jack Goodman writes in Atlas Obscura that "town planning" fell under the architectural design category along with "mixed architecture" and "mixed architecture, architectural designs," which were a part of the larger "Arts" portion of the Olympic games that included everything from literature to sculpture. The only American to medal in town planning was Charles Downing Lay at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, for his design for the redevelopment of Marine Park in Brooklyn. He scored a silver, beaten by the German team of Werner March & Walter March for their design of Reich Sport Field.

"Along with town planning, the lineup of events also included painting, sculpture, literature and music. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Games, believed art and architecture were a vital component for his vision of the Olympics. The first four decades of the modern Olympic Games saw runners and swimmers competing alongside authors and urban planners."

Despite receiving a silver medal for the Marine Park plan, Goodman writes that the designs were eventually shelved. New, more modest plans for the park were put together by two architects hired by Robert Moses, then the head of the city's Parks Department.

Friday, August 5, 2016 in Atlas Obscura

A conceptual rendering of three high-speed rail trains. The middle train is orange; the other two are black.

The California High-Speed Rail Project Illustrates America’s Transit Issues

Slow progress and a bloated budget have plagued the High-Speed Rail project linking San Francisco to Los Angeles, exposing deeper issues with American transit projects.

May 22, 2022 - Eric Carlson

Parent and child walking, holding hands on mixed-use trail with trees

What Role Does Health Care Play in Community Development?

Cities are economically diverse and require accessible health care systems, but this can be challenging to implement. Urban developers are working alongside health professionals to create affordable care for city residents.

May 18, 2022 - Devin Partida

Multi-Family Development

Density and Driving: A Second Look

A common argument against more compact housing is that increased population density will only reduce vehicle miles traveled at moderate levels of density, as opposed to very low-density and very high-density areas. But this might not be so.

May 22, 2022 - Michael Lewyn

A row of white pickup trucks at a car dealership.

Want to Drive a Big Pickup Truck in D.C.? It’s About to Get (Even More) Expensive

D.C. is considering a $500 vehicle license fee for private vehicles over 6,000 pounds.

3 minutes ago - Bloomberg

Arlington County, Virginia

Zoning Reform Gains Momentum in Northern Virginia

Arlington County and Alexandria are moving forward with actions that could potentially launch a new era of planning and development in their respective communities.

1 hour ago - Greater Greater Washington

Multi-Family Housing

Zoning Reform Works, but Is No Magic Bullet

Improving housing affordability and boosting housing production requires more than just eliminating single-family zoning.

May 26 - Bloomberg CityLab

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.