Taubman College of Architecture
and Urban Planning
University Of Michigan
Last modified: September 4, 2006
Central Questions of Planning
1. Planners have traditionally been able to define themselves professionally and politically based on where they draw the line between proper government activities and private interests. However, this may be increasingly complicated in an era of blurred public-private boundaries , of public-private partnerships, of quasi-private public authorities (such as port authorities), and of non-profits (the "third sector"). In addition, planning graduates increasing work in all three sectors, rather than just for local government. Explain how the relationship of planners to the public-private boundaries has changed in recent years. What political, economic and/or cultural factors have shaped this changing relationship? Finally, how does this change the planning profession's view of the "public interest?"
2. Scholars have used the term "modernism" as a unifying concept to describe what has happened to U.S. cities in the past 100 years. Is modernism a useful category to understand 20th Century American urbanization? Explain why or why not, and what alternative explanations offer, such as "capitalism" or "industrialization." Be sure to precisely define and distinguish terms.
3. Examine how the concept of "nature" has been used in the 20th Century intellectual history of planning theory. How has the concept of nature been defined and used in various approaches to planning theory (e.g., city beautiful, Geddes, Howard, Mumford, comprehensive planning, postmodernist planning, etc.)? If necessary, distinguish between the terms "nature," "environment," "wilderness," "open space," etc. Imagine that you are teaching a doctoral planning seminar on "Planning Theory and the Idea of Nature," and this essay is the introductory lecture that demonstrates to what extent nature has been either an implicit leitmotif -- or unknown concept -- in 20th Century planning theory.
4. According to Saskia Sassen, "economic globalization, accompanied by the emergence of a global culture, had profoundly altered the social, economic, and political reality of ... regions and ... cities." Discuss the relationship between global forces and local factors in shaping the contemporary city. You may focus on cities in either the developed or less developed world.
5. Sustainable development has emerged as a popular concept in recent years, yet it arguably remains under-theorized, especially in the context of urban and regional planning. In this essay you are to situate sustainable development within the larger context of theories and strategies in planning and urban theory. Can you identify strains of sustainable development thinking throughout the intellectual history of planning (e.g., city beautiful, Geddes, Howard, Mumford, RPAA, TVA, Pinchot and conservationism, bioregionalism, comprehensive planning)? Imagine that you are teaching a doctoral planning seminar on "Planning Theory and the Idea of Sustainability," and this essay is the introductory lecture that demonstrates to what extent sustainable development has been either an implicit leitmotif -- or unknown concept -- in 20th Century planning theory.
6. Can planning theory, now or in the past, be said to have a dominant paradigm? a) Trace the history of planning theory from the beginning of the century in terms of what paradigms were widely adopted. b) Relate these paradigms to the socio-political context in which planning was operating. c) During the time when comprehensive rationality (or the rational model) was particularly influential, is it accurate to say that it constituted a dominant paradigm? d) What is the current situation?
7. "The ideal city is the genre of the outsider who travels at
one leap from complete powerlessness to imaginary omnipotence."
Plato had his Republic. In 1516, Thomas More created his imaginary Utopia, an island with a perfect political and social order. Charles Fourier, Robert Owen and Henri de Saint-Simon created their own visions of the perfect community in the 19th Century. The Shakers built their villages throughout New York and New England in the 19th Century. In the 20th Century, Howard sketched his Garden City, Wright designed his Broadacres, and Le Corbusier proposed his Radiant City. More recently, ecologists have imagined ideal ecologically-sustainable communities (such as Callenbach's Ecotopia and Kirkpatrick Sale's bioregions), while neo-traditionalists have imagined their own idealized, middle-class village-like community.
Discuss the use of model cities (utopias, ideal communities, abstract prototypes) in planning during this century. Examine several examples (you may include those mentioned above). To what extent is imagining a model community in the future a worthwhile step in planning (or is it merely the useless byproduct of idle dreaming and avoidance of hard political and economic realities)? Is the "ideal community" approach to planning on the rise or the decline? Explain why.
8. It has become a commonplace to describe a shift in the organization of capitalism over the last twenty years from a period often labeled "Fordist" to one termed "post-Fordist." Define these terms in general as they apply to the political economy of the wealthy capitalist countries. Then describe their use in analyzing the character of manufacturing industry in general and the machine tool industry in particular. How useful is this approach as a broad brush method of characterizing the current epoch and as a strategy for analyzing a specific industry?
9. Comprehensive planning has been alternately endorsed and rejected by planners. Define comprehensive planning and briefly discuss its development in the history of planning and planning theory. Then discuss the appropriateness of comprehensive planning specifically for environmental planning. How do the conceptual, institutional and technical characteristics of environmental protection make comprehensiveness either an appropriate or inappropriate strategy (as compared to other areas of planning such as housing, transportation and economic development)? Be sure to discuss both sides of the argument. Be both precise and subtle in your use of the term "comprehensive."
10. Planners and urbanists have focused much of their efforts on understanding and addressing the economic distress of older industrial cities. They have examined complex causes such as deindustrialization, plant closures, the decline of labor unions, suburbanization, the globalization of manufacturing and trade, the fiscal crisis of the city, and the rise of the underclass. Meanwhile, a new generation of American cities and regions (such as Seattle, Silicon Valley, Austin, Atlanta) are booming and apparently immune to the woes of Philadelphia, Detroit, Hartford, etc. How might these growing cities learn from the analysis of urban decline of the first set of cities so as to avoid a similar fate? Is an early intervention either advisable or even possible? Be sure in your discussion to compare the socio-economic base of these two classes of cities (and whether it is indeed appropriate to speak of a "new generation of cities").
11. A number of theorists describe a break in the development of cities, regions, and culture during the 1970s. What are the different ways in which they have characterized this change? Do you agree that such a break has taken place? If so, what do you see as the underlying dynamic leading to this transformation and what are the qualities that differentiate the present period from the one preceding it? If you disagree with the argument that there has been a sharp change, what are the reasons for your disagreement?
12. Urbanists have often made sweeping and deterministic arguments about how new technologies would dramatically change metropolitan development. For example, the telephone was to eliminate the need for personal visits; the teleconference would eliminate the need for business travel; the Internet would eliminate commuting; personal hover craft and helicopters would make the street grid irrelevant. Yet one sees the persistence of the real despite the virtual; the persistence of manufacturing despite services; the persistence of agglomeration economies despite decentralization; and the persistence of the local despite the global. In this essay, compare several different theoretical approaches to understanding the relationship between technological change and metropolitan development. Be sure to define what you mean by technology and technological change.
13. Recent changes both inside and outside the U.S. Congress have pointed toward an increasing opposition to government activities in a wide variety of areas, including environmental protection, social services, public transportation, scholarly research, foreign aid, housing and education. Begin by outlining the traditional justifications for public sector planning. Then examine the traditional arguments against public sector planning. (Indicate whether there is a single, core argument against planning, or else a cluster of distinct arguments against planning.) Finally, speculate on the current anti-government sentiment in this country, and place it in the context of your analysis of justifications for and against planning.
14. One of the central themes in planning theory is the "public interest." A belief in the public interest has been the foundation for a set of values that planners hold dear: equal protection and equal opportunity, public space, and a sense of civic community and social responsibility. For urban designers, this public interest may be the preservation of public spaces and architecture that promotes a shared sense of community. For environmental planners, this may include the preservation of natural resources and open space for the public's enjoyment. How has this sense of the public interest changed over time?
15. Some urban writers have compared advanced industrial cities to less developed cities, such as comparing the underclass poverty, income disparity, infant mortality rates and informal sector of New York City to the conditions in third world cities. What is the function, benefit and potential abuse of this first world-third world comparative structure? Beyond serving as a provocative and anti-elitist assertion that the supposedly advanced, sophisticated cities of North America and Europe may not be that much different from the megacities of the so-called underdeveloped world, to what extent can these comparisons improve our theoretical understanding of urban development? Is there a limit to the usefulness of these comparisons? Cite examples where appropriate.
16. How do different disciplines conceptualize space? Do
geographers, planners, sociologists, economists, anthropologists, ecologists,
architects, etc. each have a common or conflicting views of space, geography,
place, territory, "home," etc.?
THE ROLE OF THE PLANNER
design vs. social science: (i.e., should the planner be trained as an architect or economist?)
city vs. planning: Should city planning focus on the "city" (a substantive place) or on the "planning" (a procedural/behavioral process of decision making)? (e.g., ends vs. means)
utopian (planning for how things could/should be) vs. pragmatic (how things are)
consensus vs. adversarial (Can and should planners strive to achieve a common set of goals and objectives amongst all the social groups in a city? Or should planners accept the inevitability of social conflict and disagreement in any plan?)
engaged advocate vs. objective technician (How far should planners get involved in politics and take sides?)
ORGANIZATIONAL AND SPATIAL SCALE OF PLANNING
comprehensive (large scale designs) vs. incremental (i.e., "muddling through")
bottom up (grass roots) vs. top-down planning (centralized planning)
neighborhood vs. city vs. metropolis vs. region vs. nation vs. world (at what level should planning happen?)
PRIORITIES AND CONFLICTING INTERESTS IN PLANNING
economic development vs. environmentalism (Which goal should planners pursue?)
equity vs. efficiency (Should we plan for an efficient allocation of resources, or a more socially fair distribution of resources?)
physical vs. social planning, or planning for people vs. planning for place.
territory vs. function (i.e., planning for places vs. planning for economic sectors)
THE PLANNER'S RELATIONSHIP TO THE MARKET AND GOVERNMENT
planning vs. the market: What is their relationship?
(1) market failures and nonmarket failures (neoclassical view);
(2) the market as inherently a failure (Marxist view);
(3) planning as serving the market (a Marxist view, or a cynical view)
(4) a blurred boundary between planning and the market (institutional view)
public vs. private (Should planning be done in the public and/or private sector?)
capitalism vs. socialism: "the logic of the plan to replace the chaos of the market " (the old justification of socialism) vs. "the logic of the market to replace the chaos of the plan" (the new critique of Eastern European socialism?)
STYLES OF PLANNING
"rational model" of planning
linkages and inclusionary zoning
Tennessee Valley Authority
Appalachian Regional Commission
general plan (master plan, comprehensive plan)
TYPOLOGIES OF CITIES AND URBANIZATION
MOVEMENTS AND PROTOTYPES
City Beautiful Movement (and the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago)
Garden City (Ebenezer Howard)
Radiant City (Le Corbusier)
Broadacres (Frank Lloyd Wright)
the Regional Planning Association of America
Modernism and Postmodernism
neo-traditional housing communities
A few names to know:
Frank Lloyd Wright
Frederick Law Olmsted
Abraham Levitt (Levittown)
Borneman, John. 1991. After the Wall: East Meets West in the New Berlin. New York: Basic Books.
Borneman, John. 1992. Belonging in the Two Berlins: Kin, State, nation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Clare, George. 1990. Before the Wall: Berlin Days, 1946-48. New York: Dutton.
Darnton, Robert. 1991. Berlin journal, 1989-1990. New York: Norton.
Diefendorf, Jeffry M. 1993. In the Wake of War: The Reconstruction of German Cities after World War II. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Elkins, T.H. 1988. Berlin Spatial Structure of a Divided City. London and New York: Methuen.
Friedrich, Otto. 1972. Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s. New York: Harper and Row.
Häußermann, Hartmut, and Elizabeth Strom. 1994. Berlin: The Once and Future Capital. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 18 (2):335-346.
Gilbert, James Burkhart. 1991. Perfect cities: Chicago's utopias of 1893. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Miller, Donald L. 1996. City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Venturi, Robert, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour. 1977. Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. revised ed. Cambridge, Mass and London: MIT Press.
Rasmussen, Steen Eiler. 1974. London, the unique city. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press.
Los Angeles/Southern California
Davis, Mike. 1990. City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles. New York: Verso.
Lotchin, Roger W. 1992. Fortress California, 1910-1961: from warfare to welfare. New York: Oxford University Press.
McWilliams, Carey. 1985. Southern California: an island on the land. Salt Lake City: Gibbs M. Smith/Peregrine Smith.
Soja, E.W. and A.J. Scott, eds. 1996. The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the Twentieth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Rae, Douglas. 2003. City: Urbanism and Its End. Yale University Press.
New York City
Burrows, Edwin G., and Mike Wallace. 1998. Gotham : A History of New York City to 1898: Oxford Univ Press.
Caro, Robert. 1974. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. New York: Alfred Knopf.
Fainstein, Susan S., Ian Gordon, and Michael Harloe, eds. 1992. Divided Cities: New York and London in the Contemporary World. Oxford UK and Cambridge US: Blackwell.
Gelernter, David Hillel. 1996. 1939: The Lost World of the Fair. New York: Avon Books.
Gottmann, Jean. 1961. Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States. New York: The Twentieth Century Fund.
Hoover, Edgar M., and Raymond Vernon. 1959. Anatomy of a Metropolis. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Jacobs, Jane. 1961. Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Vintage.
Self, Robert. 2005. American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland. Princeton University Press.
Harvey, David. 1985. Consciousness and the urban experience: studies in the history and theory of capitalist urbanization. Baltimore, Md.: John Hopkins University Press. [chapter on Paris]
Verne, Jules. 1996. Paris in the Twentieth Century. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Random House.
Warner, Sam Bass. 1987. The private city: Philadelphia in three periods of its growth. [2nd ed.]. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Hartman, Chester W. 1984. The transformation of San Francisco. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Allanheld.
Lotchin, Roger W. 1973. A history of San Francisco, 1846-1856: Thesis (Ph. D.)--Chicago, 1969.
Lotchin, Roger W. 1979. San Francisco, 1846-1856: from hamlet to city. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Lotchin, Roger W. 1979. Urbanism in the modern West. De Land, Fla.: Everett/Edwards.
Schorske, Carl E. 1981. Fin-de-siècle Vienna: politics and culture. New York: Vintage Books. [see, in particular, the chapter on Vienna's Ringstraße]
Bowling, Kenneth R. 1988. Creating the federal city, 1774-1800: Potomac fever. Washington, D.C: American Institute of Architects Press.
Brereton, Thomas F. 1973. Planning in the National Capital: a study of organizations and problems in three federal capital cities. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Xerox University Microfilms.
Green, C.M. 1965. Washington: Capital City, 1879-1950. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Gutheim, F. 1977. Worthy of the Nation: The History of Planning for the National Capital. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute Press.
Spofford, Ainsworth Rand. 1881. The founding of Washington city. Baltimore: J. Murphy & Co.
Weaver, K., and C. Harris. 1989. Who's in Charge Here: Congress and the Nation's Capital. Brookings Review 7 (3):39-46.
On Capital Cities
Clark, Peter, and Bernard Lepetit. 1996. Capital cities and their hinterlands in early modern Europe. Aldershot, Hants, England: Brookfield, Vt.: Scolar Press; Ashgate Pub.
Cornish, Vaughan. 1971. The great capitals; an historical geography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
Eldredge, H. Wentworth, ed. 1975. World Capitals: Toward Guided Urbanization. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday.
Gottmann, Jean. 1985. The Study of Former Capitals. Ekistics 314/315 (Sept./Oct.-Nov./Dec.):541-46.
Sagvari, Agnes, and International Council on Archives. Executive Committee. 1980. The Capitals of Europe: a guide to the sources for the history of their architecture and construction = Les Capitales de l'Europe : guide des sources de laarchitecture et de lurbanisme [editor-in-chief, Agnes Sagvari]. Munchen; New York: Detroit: K.G. Saur; distributed by Gale Research.
Taylor, John, Jean G. Lengellé, and Caroline Andrew, eds. 1993. Capital Cities / Les Capitales: Perspectives Internationales / International Perspectives. Ottawa: Carleton University Press.
Vale, Lawrence J. 1992. Architecture, Power, and National Identity. New Haven: Yale University Press.