Revisiting Peter Hall’s Cities of Tomorrow

After a full year’s separation from planning school, I’ve decided to revisit some of the standard  literature that formed the basis of my early, non-blog/pop-planning education. I figure with some professional experience under my belt I’ll be able to approach these things with a more critical eye, see what works and what doesn’t (at least from my limited personal experience), and wring a bit more academic enjoyment out of something that doesn’t come attached to an assignment. Working in the field, it is remarkably easy to fall out of academic practice. You lose sight of the things that got you interested in planning in the first place, overshadowed by the standard struggles of the workday.

I’m starting with Peter Hall’s Cities of Tomorrow, which might be my first assigned reading as a student. I remember most of broad strokes. The colliding and diverging branches of theory spiraling into and out of bureaucratic practice, planning as problem solving giving way to new urban crises, the outsized character of Le Corbusier, and the emergence of modern global cities. A brief reading of the opening chapter reminds me of the complicated and twisting nature of new ideas in planning and how they come into and out of favor, how they are bastardized, coopted, rediscovered, or refounded. Hall specifically points out Howard’s Garden Cities as indicative of this phenomenon.

I recently found out about a city planning book club, which should be a good resource for future, non-syllabus-related lit. I’ll be following up with my thoughts on this and future readings weekly.

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