Read in ‘Cities of Tomorrow’ (1992) of Sir Peter Hall:
While you are reading this blog post, I’m sitting in a plane flying to London, pondering on my lecture of yesterday at the University of Amsterdam for bachelor students in planning and geography. It was an introduction to planning, the last part: from the Fourth Report on Spatial Planning in the Netherland (as the last sweeping governmental measures of the Dutch state) untill recent times. They all had to read Peter Hall’s ‘Cities of Tomorrow’. In the end I quoted Hall: “No, planning will not go away; no, it will never again be de-politicized, as some once hoped. Like the Abbé Sieyès in an earlier revolution, it lives. But traditional land-use planning has come under more basic attack in its country of birth than ever in its eighty years of existence. It has become determinedly reactive, artisan and anti-intellectual, while planning in the academy has retreated ever higher up its ivory tower.” This he wrote in 1992. We’re now twenty-three years later. Hall died a few years ago. How optimistic can we be?
One of the students wanted to know what new life is waiting for planners. And why did I tell all those heroic stories on the history of planning if it is all over now? The answers I gave her didn’t satisfy her, I could see. What to add? We should learn from history, I told her. And be inspired. For me, it was inspiring to read about Patrick Geddes again, who founded his planning beliefs on the works of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the French anarchist who thought that individual property ownership was the essential guarantee of a free society, so long as no one owned too much. “Such a society, he believed, could alone provide the basis for a decentralized, non-hierarchical system of federal government.” Even more so, Geddes, and also Ebenezer Howard, were friends of Peter Kropotkin, the Russian anarchist who founded his thoughts on Proudhon and believed in a new age of industrial decentralization. Geddes also took his position “that society had to be reconstructed not by sweeping governmental measures, but through the efforts of millions of individuals; the ‘neotechnic order’ meant the creation, city by city, region by region, of a Europia.” That is what we planners should do: focusing on the efforts of the millions in this neo-neotechnic age, creating a Europia at last.