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People, places and culture


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Downes, Eleanor 1999 , 'People, places and culture', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The issues presented in this project have been considered by
commentators on planning for at least half a century in the context of
discussion surrounding the relationship between physical planning and
cultural values. As early as 1946, United States activist and social
commentator Saul Alinsky in Reveille For Radicals wrote of the
interrelatedness of the social and the physical, and the need for processes
which gave people a voice and power within community decision
making. (Alinsky, 1969).
Jane Jacobs was highly critical of the internationalist approach to the
design of cities. Writing in 1961, in The Life and Death of Great American
Cities, she discounted the reliance on the experts, the planners, and
focused instead on the reality of people's experience of cities. She
concluded that how people live should be the focus of decision making
and not how planners think the city should work. She stated that
decisions needed to be based on the understanding of the social
background of people without generalising and making assumptions
(Jacobs, 1961). In 1965, Paul Davidoff called for
'... a practice that openly invites political and social values to be
examined and debated. Acceptance of this position means the
rejection of prescriptions for planning which would have the
planner act solely as a technician.' (Davidoff, 1965).
Herbert Gans in his book, People and Plans wrote of the failure of
planning, in particular its two major fallacies:
1. That the physical environment was a major determinant of
society and culture; and 2. that only an environment based on professional planning
principles could deliver the good life (Gans, 1968).
During this period, in Great Britain, the Committee on Public Participation
in Planning was developing its report, People and Planning. At its focus
was community involvement in planning, concluding that
'People should be able to say what kind of community they want
and how it should develop: and should be able to do so in a way that
is positive and first hand.' (Committee on Public Participation in
Planning, 1969).
In the 1970s theorists such as Foglesong offered Marxist approaches to
planning, raising questions such as the relationship between planners,
class interests and the state as well as the contradictions between capitalism
and planning (Sandercock, 1998). Leonie Sandercock comments '...the
most significant contribution of Marxist approaches to planning history is
the focus on class, and the deconstruction of the idea of 'the public
interest' (1998). During the 1970s and 80s, Amos Rapoport was offering an anthropological
approach to planning and environmental design decision making. He
states 'the nature of the group which is being considered in planning and
design cannot be assumed but needs to be discovered' (Rapoport, 1980). He
suggests that in order to understand the relationship between people and
their environment, one must get beyond material aspects of the
environment and understand the nature of culture (1980). It is necessary
to gain a knowledge of ideals, imagery and values to better understand
cultural landscapes as well as to design appropriate settings (Rapoport,
Concurrent to this was the feminist debate and contribution to planning
theory. Feminist planning theory is very much a socially based model, which focuses on processes and approaches as opposed to detailing the
physical shape or form of settlement. Feminist planning theory asserts
'... an arrangement of space in which the domination of men over
women was written into the architecture, urban design, and form of
the city not recognising that their (women's) needs in the city
were different from those of men, based as they were primarily
around the home, neighbourhood and caring for children and the
elderly.' (Sandercock, 1998).
Feminist theory brings difference very much into the fore of the debate.
As do more recent discussions of the potential impact of multiculturalism
on planning by commentators such as Sandercock and Qadeer in the
It is an appropriate time to reassess how decisions are made for
communities, A journey has been undertaken in the above discussions
which initially recognised the importance of the people on whose behalf
decisions were being made and pointed out the inability of the expert to
ever be in a position to adequately make such decisions. Also the notion
that it may be undesirable to make decisions for others without first
identifying the values, assumptions and power base which underpins
those decisions. The debate then moved towards an examination of that
power base and with this, the recognition of who does or does not benefit
from decisions. The question of 'difference' is now on the agenda. The fact that people are
not the same as each other and have divergent needs and interests must be
an important consideration in decision making. Difference is not just a
characteristic of the 'other', the minority in our community but is a true
characteristic of whole communities and as such should be addressed in
decision making for the benefit of all.

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Downes, Eleanor
Keywords: Urban policy, City planning
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1999 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis ( MTP )--University of Tasmania, 1999. Includes bibliographical references

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