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The Historical Evolution of Town and Country Planning in Australia and Internationally Essay

Despite the profession of planning being a relatively recent creation, Planning has existed in some form since the beginning of human settlement itself. Whether it is the ancient cities of the Old World or the global metropolises of today, every urban environments display some degree of planning in their design and function (Smith, 2007). However, just as cities have evolved over time, so to have the approaches taken to planning and the philosophies behind them. This evolution of Town and Country Planning forms a long and complex history which encompasses a wide breadth of ideas.

Reflecting upon this history, several key movements can be identified: The origins of Planning in the 19th century, the Modernist era of the early 20th century and the Postmodernist era that followed. This paper will focus on these key movements. Historical Planning During the 19th century, cities were subject to increasing industrialization accompanied by rapid population growth and urban expansion. This lead to overcrowding, congestion, slums and lack of sanitation (Hall 1992).

Growing public protest in the form of protests and labour strikes in countries like Britain led to the implementation of various reform measures such as the Public Health Act of 1848 and the Labouring Classes’ Dwellings Houses Act of 1866. These went some way to relieving these pressures (Maginn 2011) by setting minimal standards for health and housing, resulting in for increased living standards by the century’s end. During this time, planning was used mostly by private companies as a tool to increase productivity by improving the health of the working population (Cowan 2010).

The higher living standards and economic prosperity this created lead to planning philosophy changing its focus from providing housing and improving cities to beautifying them (Bluestone M, 1988). This City Beautiful movement focused on civic beautification and the construction of monuments. The term ‘beautility’ was used to describe the theory that a beautiful city must also be functional one. (Freestone et al 2000) However, these changes led some to question if further improvements could be made.

By the end of the 19th century, basic ideas about urban planning were well developed. These ideas had ‘underlying utopian aspirations that influenced the attitudes and procedures planners’ (Akoi, K 1993). The Garden City is possibly the best example of this, as an optimistic attempt to unite broad utopian ideals with the planning lessons of the past into a a specific plan. ( http://faculty. tamu-commerce. edu/jsun/racespaceplace. pdf) First outlined by Ebenezer Howard in To-Morrow (1898), the Garden City became a major force in the historical planning era that influenced planners worldwide.

According to Hall 1992 (Hall 1992b), Howard argued that a new type of garden-city settlement could uniquely combine all the advantages of the town such as employment and access to services, as well as the advantages of country life, without any of the disadvantages of either. His proposal for creating such a settlement rested on the notion of decentralization, the movement of workers and their places of employment away from the city and into the new settlements isolated by wide greenbelts. Howard proposed the development of numerous Garden Cities, each with 30,000 inhabitants.

Despite wide support from planners of the time, only two attempts were made at garden cities, Letchworth in 1903 and Welywyn in 1920, both of which never fully realized the goals of the movement. Mordernist Planning The Radiant City As the world entered the 20th century, planning philosophies evolved further. In Europe, Swiss-born architect Charles Edouard Jenneret, known as Le Corbusier, put forward radical planning proposals, which built on the ideas of Howard and his predecessors. Le Corbusier’s ideas and philosophies are contained in The City of tomorrow (1922) and The Radiant City (1933).

These books outlined Le Courbuiser’s planning philosophies, centered around the idea of high density achieved through the construction of enormous skyscrapers, surrounded by open garden spaces and serviced by a highly efficient transport system of superhighways and railways grade separated from the inhabited realm (Hall 1993c). His proposals for a large-scale implementation of this phisosophy, outlined in his Plan Voisin Pour Paris, were never realized, though his ideas were implemented at a smaller scale around Europe in the postwar period following World War II, such as the Unite d’Habitation in Marseilles.

By the 1960’s many planners began to question the effectiveness of Le Corbusier’s proposals (Hall 1992d), and today many critics condemn his plans entirely, such as such as Dalrymple 2009 who views them as ‘soulless’ and ‘totalitarian’ in nature. However, it cannot be denied that his radical ideas had a major and lasting impact on the evolution of town and country planning (Hall 1992e). The Broadacre City While Le Corbusier was a proponent of density, American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was not. The two men were influenced by many of the same sources, but their visions were very different.

Developed between 1932 and 1959, Broadacre City was a proposal for a sprawling city of large lots, farms and industry spread across the countryside serviced by network of superhighways (Brown 2007) While it was never built, Today’s critics have drawn parallels between it and the sprawling sub-urban expansion that defined the postwar reconstruction period in Australia and around the world. Postmodernist Planning Suburbia Thompson (2007) asserts that the postwar reconstruction of the 1950’s linked town and country planning with housing concerns to an extent not seen since planning’s beginnings in the 19th century.

In Australia, master plans were created for cities, all of which reflected international planning philosophies of the time (Thompson 2007), supporting unlimited outward expansion, low-density residential development, car-oriented transport networks. In North America, this evolution was even more pronounced. Similar suburban developments were created, but on an unprecedented scale, with approximately 75 percent of North American housing stock built since World War II (Hirch 1983). These planning practices continued unabated until the 1970’s, when the effects of this planner began to be questioned (Thompson 2007).

New Urbanism The end of the 20th century has seen the beginnings of yet another stage in the evolution of Town and Country Planning. Originating in the 1980’s, New Urbanism is a planning philosophy that promotes the construction of dense communities integrated with well-designed public spaces (Maginn 2011). According to Hikichi 2003, It promotes mixed residential unit types that are supportive of differing income levels, protection of the environment, less reliance on automobiles through he use of walking and bicycles for transport as well as the development of public transit and transit oriented development.

In addition, New Urbanism supports having a town center that is within walking distance from all residential units that open space for public use. Conclusion It is clear that Town and Country Planning has a long and complex history, influenced by changing social, political, economic and environmental philosophies of both governments and private companies and planners. From its beginnings in 19th century Britain, through its modernist period and into its current postmodernist phase, planning has left both negative and positive impacts upon the urban environment.

However, this history has not been ignored and planners of today utilize the lessons learnt from the planners of the past in order to plan as well as possible, as shown in the positive changes to planning practices as it has evolved. All approaches to planning have had a permanent impact on our urban environment, the results of which impact people today and will continue to do so into the future.


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