Regarding Le Corbusier and Urban Planning

Jay McCarthy writes in response to my post on Le Corbusier’s The City of Tomorrow and its Planning:

I have some reservations about the idea of city-planning. It seems like a way for governments and other organizations to impose on individuals lives and force them to live in a particular way that they believe is best [...].

It needs saying that what Le Corbusier advocated goes far beyond what most urban planning is about. Or at least that is my impression from what I have read so far. Usually, urban planning doesn’t include specific designs for houses, but is limited to overall guidelines. As I understand it (and please correct me if I’m wrong), the plans say, for instance, that “here there should be a park,” and then the park is designed by a landscape architect, possibly chosen in a competition. The same goes for residential and commercial buildings, where I guess builders compete for real estate, and the commissioned architects have to adhere to the guidelines of the overall plan.

The plans decide where public spaces are to be located: streets, parks, public buildings, and so on. They may regulate the height of buildings. Also, there’s something called design codes, but I’m unsure whether those are part of the city plan, or if they regulate the plans as well – i.e. that they are dictated at “a level above” the city planners.

Urban planner Ildefons Cerdá thought that a very regularly shaped urban plan, a grid, would cause the most variety. He laid the plans for Barcelona, which has a rich diversity of buildings. And cities seem to need regulation, or help to stay self-regulating. Jane Jacobs touts the importance of diversity, and talks about “self-destructing diversity,” that successful neighborhoods can’t adapt by themselves, they can’t self-regulate to maintain the diversity that makes them successful.

The above was posted to my personal weblog on July 4, 2004. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.

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