Tag Archives: urban planning

06 May

Part II – Ebenezer Howard – Still an Inspiration

See part I of this series for a little more background about Ebenezer Howard, the inventor of the Garden City circa 1900.

So if you aren’t familiar with Howard, (and I am by no means an expert) he was a man who looked around him and saw a great disparity between the people who had much power and money, (the corporate and business moguls), and the rest of the working class (the 99%), at the turn of the previous century. He wanted to help solve both the social and urban decay crisis of his time.

Now remember, this was a man who was middle aged, and did not have a formal education in architecture, planning or any related field. This little piece of information sank into my brain with a much larger impact than it had at 22 as well, because, well, I’m on the cusp of the dreaded ‘middle age’ myself, and the thought that a total reinvention of who you are, your field, and your posterity is both intriguing and inspiring.

At some point in the future there will need to be a clarifier on exactly which turn of the century we are talking about, the year 1900 or the year 2000, because that sounds a lot like the concerns many of my colleagues have now. We are still trying to solve the same basic problems of social inequality, affordable housing, urban decay, and general positive societal fulfillment over one hundred years later!

He did not support concentrated power in the hands of a few by governmental intervention, but also did not support a union movement. He DID support a strong community of people who were mutually benefitted by strong relationships between commerce and the individual, by interwoven supply and demand dynamics, and strong social cooperation ethics.

People who held similar beliefs in his time and place were categorized as “the radical movement of Victorian England”. Hmmm, it might as well be called something very similar in today’s world. The term radical always has confused me when applied to those who want to help find a solution to poverty and suffering, whether by architectural design or cooperation. Is it really “radical” to want to see people get along and respect each other’s humanity?

So it seems that Howard wanted to balance the need for individual freedoms and the need for rules and order in a quest for the perfect conditions to foster a society in which all people had a satisfactory life…something that we as a collective society struggle with even today.

Again, I don’t know why I was surprised at the similarities between then and now, but for some reason I really was…more than a hundred years later and we are still trying to balance the need for freedom with the need for regulation.

Part III coming soon….

31 Jan

Why I’m Re-Reading My College Textbooks

Why am I reading my old Landscape Architecture college text books?

It is the beginning of a new year, and I’m delving back into a book I first read when I was in Graduate School studying to be a Landscape Architect  and Planner entitled “Readings in Planning Theory”  Edited By Scott Cambell and Susan Fainstein 1st Ed 1996.  I had this book in a pile of old books I was getting ready to throw out.

As they sat in the corner of my room, waiting to be recycled, I would periodically walk by them and have a pang of remorse that I didn’t need them anymore.  I hadn’t read them in years.  As the new year came along and I flipped my calendar over to January 2014, I decided that instead of throwing these books out, I would read them….and then throw them out…just to get my money’s worth out of them…ha!

Then a couple funny things happened.  First, I actually started reading one of the books…I kind of thought this would just be one of those things I thought I should do, but don’t actually do. I’m sure you know what I mean.

The second thing I thought was funny was that I really didn’t remember reading this particular book.  I know I did, I got A’s in all my classes, and there is much highlighted with a yellow highlighter, and I remember the main ideas, or generally remember the ideas, but there were so many interesting ideas, people, and projects that I had forgotten about.  I’m sure the information is  there deep in my subconscious, somewhere, but reading it again made it seem new, exciting, and like I had found a long lost friend.

I realized that I still absolutely love the academia of my profession, I love the ideas of planning and design.  This time when I was reading, I wanted to absorb the information in a different way than the younger me did.  Armed with many tools that were not available to me then, primarily the internet, I can connect with the authors, the projects, and other landscape architecture and planning professionals in fundamentally new ways.  It is very exciting.

So if you have books lying around from college that need to be recycled…I want to encourage you to pick one up and commit to reading it, you might find a connection to that spark that made you first want to become a professional in your field.