Wk04 Learning Programme

TOPIC: Urban planning: agent of (im)mobilities


In Week 03 we talked about the importance of the urban form for regulating mobilities in the city not only at any point in time (snapshot) but also cumulatively, over time, as a record that folds the past into the present (time-lapse). We finished by discussing two examples in particular - Paris and Barcelona -, focusing on how they encountered modernity and its challenges in the second half of the 19th century.
This week we start with these two examples but with a slightly different focus - their planning efforts. The plan was re-invented in modern times as a regulating mechanism for the increasing complexity of the urban system. From new cities planned from scratch to reformed historic cities the importance of the plan in shaping urban form and life cannot be exaggerated.
Like urban form, the urban plan looks and feels static. But it is not. In the two seminars we will discuss how urban planning shaped cities, affected the urban tissue and the life of the inhabitants, encouraged or discouraged particular kinds of urban growths, created flows and immobilities. We will also explore how urban planning is closely linked to patterns of urban expansion, as well as to 20th-century phenomena such as urban sprawl, high-rise building, suburbanisation, and so on.
The plan, however, is only one of the components that shapes the urban system in time and over time. This is where we turn to Henri Lefebvre, the author of the seminar Production of Space, to examine the dialectics of perceived, conceived, and lived space. It is these three layers of space that will help us appreciate the importance of urban planning as a key ingredient in the production of the urban space - but also that it is not by itself enough to explain why a city looks, feels, functions as it does at any particular point in time. There is always a gap between the space of the planners and the way that this same space is perceived, lived, and 'owned' by the humans inhabiting it or passing through it.
Seminar 07 (Thursday) will provide you with the historical context and will highlight the main points to discuss. The discussion will continue in Seminar 08 (Friday), where we will also test them against urban case studies (e.g. New York, New Delhi)


Wolff, Pauline. “From the Urban Planning Discourse to a Circulation Dispositif.” In The Mobilities Paradigm: Discourses and Ideologies, edited by Marcel Endres, Katharina Manderscheid, and Christophe Mincke, 202–23. London and New York: Routledge, 2016.


The plan appears like a static conception of space. In what ways does it become 'mobile'? Be creative!
How has urban planning affected the urban history of Paris? Again, do not think only of what was actually planned on paper!
Wolff observes that 'when considered over a longer time scale, urban planning is a lens through which the evolution of the history of ideas can be observed'. What are your views about this dimension of urban planning?
How important are (a) circulation (of people, goods etc) and (b) health in the development of modern urban planning ideas?
What consequences, intended and unintended, has modern urban planning had? Think of particular examples; maybe reflect on your portfolio case study as well (was there an important urban plan - surely yes! - and how did it/they affect your chosen city?).


This is not part of your portfolio but it may be interesting for our discussion: as mentioned above, look at your chosen city for your Week 03 portfolio assignment and try to find out more information about urban plans in the past (ideally in the 20th or 19th centuries but go back if you like). If you can locate information and find any visual representations of the plan versus what happened in reality, please post in on the Padlet by the end of Wednesday.


About the urban history of Paris, see
Gordon, David. Planning Twentieth Century Capital Cities. London and New York: Routledge, 2006, Ch 4 (Paris)
About Paris in the time of Haussmann's planning interventions (1860s), see
Panerai, Philippe, Jean Castex, Jean-Charles Depaule, and Ivor Samuels. Urban Forms: The Death and Life of the Urban Block. Oxford, Woburn MA: Architectural Press, 2004, Ch 1 (Haussmann's Paris)
If you feel brave and wish to do a bit of digging into Lefebvre's theory of space, I recommend
Zieleniec, Andrzej. "Lefebvre’s Politics of Space: Planning the Urban as Oeuvre". Urban Planning 3/3 (2018): 5–15

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