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Planning Natural Communities with Open Space

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Abstract

In this chapter I examine the mid-twentieth-century plans of Sir Patrick Abercrombie whose comprehensive approach to planning post-War London acted as a powerful influence for other cities. I show how Abercrombie used a fluid concept of ‘natural communities’ to structure the capital’s development, integrating different scientific and non-scientific approaches. In particular, I describe how Abercrombie set his concept of malleable communities alongside those of more fixed objects in the landscape such as rivers and major infrastructure. His inclusion of open space as a part of those fixed elements was a critical part of ensuring their long-term preservation. Abercrombie’s approach represents a return to viewing the city holistically in a landscape and I conclude by describing the antecedent plan by the New York State Commission for Housing and Regional Planning co-authored by Lewis Mumford as an indication of a broader movement towards holism.

Keywords

  • London planning
  • Sir Patrick Abercrombie
  • Lewis Mumford
  • organicism

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Dehaene (2002).

  2. 2.

    Luccarelli (1997).

  3. 3.

    Amati and Freestone (2016).

  4. 4.

    Not least through Abercrombie’s own fame and travels (Amati and Freestone 2009).

  5. 5.

    Forshaw and Abercrombie (1943, 21).

  6. 6.

    Forshaw and Abercrombie (1943, 29).

  7. 7.

    Abercrombie (1944, 20).

  8. 8.

    ‘It is at this point in our progress from the centre that the interest begins to quicken [...]’ (Abercrombie 1944, 24).

  9. 9.

    Hall (1995, 236).

  10. 10.

    Abercrombie (1944, 31).

  11. 11.

    He notes that the latter increased the population by 826,349 people in the seven years prior to WWII (Abercrombie 1944, 31).

  12. 12.

    Abercrombie (1944, 33).

  13. 13.

    Abercrombie (1944, 98).

  14. 14.

    Digitised by Joe Blakey and Martin Dodge from the Department of Geography, University of Manchester. https://issuu.com/cyberbadger/docs/city_of_manchester_plan_1945; Perkins and Dodge (2012).

  15. 15.

    Abercrombie (1944, 97).

  16. 16.

    Two and a half acres as a temporary measure, increasing to seven acres (De Oliveira 2015).

  17. 17.

    Who is best known for his textbook Principles and Practice of Town and Country Planning, first published in 1952, which laid out in practical terms what the new science and art of town planning should consist of and was widely read throughout the Anglophone world.

  18. 18.

    Keeble (1961, 71–75).

  19. 19.

    Amati et al. (2008, 7).

  20. 20.

    De Oliveria (2015).

  21. 21.

    Abercrombie (1944, 11).

  22. 22.

    Abercrombie (1944, 11).

  23. 23.

    Abercrombie (1944, 97).

  24. 24.

    Abercrombie (1944, 100).

  25. 25.

    also known as ‘Potato plans’ (Züger and Christiaanse 2018).

  26. 26.

    Abercrombie (1944, 20).

  27. 27.

    Hall (1995).

  28. 28.

    Abercrombie (1944, 111).

  29. 29.

    Forshaw and Abercrombie (1943, 21–28).

  30. 30.

    Forshaw and Abercrombie (1943, 28).

  31. 31.

    Abercrombie (1944, 113).

  32. 32.

    Abercrombie (1944, 113).

  33. 33.

    ‘A main principle determining this plan is that all national and regional roads pass between communities rather than through them …’ (Abercrombie 1944, 113).

  34. 34.

    Abercrombie (1944, 111).

  35. 35.

    Wood (1999).

  36. 36.

    In 1926 the Ministry of Health had commissioned a feasibility study that examined the inequality of open space distribution in different parts of the city and the cost of preservation; (Amati and Yokohari 2004, Figs. 2 and 3).

  37. 37.

    Hornsey (2008).

  38. 38.

    Assumption 3 Abercrombie (1944, 5).

  39. 39.

    emphasis in original (De Block 2016).

  40. 40.

    Amati and Yokohari (2007).

  41. 41.

    This point is made in other works Hornsey (2008); Raynsford (2010) notes the importance of medieval aesthetics in planning.

  42. 42.

    Amati et al. (2008).

  43. 43.

    Chapter Urban Social Hygiene.

  44. 44.

    Of course there is not the space to review Mumford’s philosophical approach (Luccarelli 1997) provides an excellent overview.

  45. 45.

    Casillo (1992).

  46. 46.

    Luccarelli (1997).

  47. 47.

    Luccarelli (1997, 58).

  48. 48.

    The report was co-authored by members of the Regional Planning Association of America, Benton Mackaye, Henry Wright and Lewis Mumford and chaired by Clarence Stein. The radicalism of the report meant that it was not as influential as it could have been. Soon after a limited print run of 1000 copies the ideas contained within it lay in obscurity for 45 years (Sussman 1976, 144–145), eclipsed by the comprehensive and State endorsed Regional Plan for New York (1929).

  49. 49.

    Reprint of the Report of the New York State Commission for Housing and Regional Planning in Sussman (1976, 184).

  50. 50.

    See for example Lang et al. (2012).

  51. 51.

    Luccarelli (1997).

  52. 52.

    For example describing cities as ‘mouths’ of the empire in his book New Exploration (1928). As Luccarelli (1997, 91) points out Mackaye’s work also employed the metaphor of water flowing across the land as a metaphor for economy and demography. For example, the diagram ‘Boston as a mouth of flow’ rivers are shown flowing towards the city to represent the origins and pathways for milk arriving in the city.

  53. 53.

    Casillo (1992).

  54. 54.

    Ward (2002, 117).

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Amati, M. (2021). Planning Natural Communities with Open Space. In: The City and the Super-Organism. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-3977-7_8

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