A professionalconstraints and that most planners live to serve the pockets and interests ofbureaucracies and their clients. He then contradicts himself further by sayingthat planners do in fact focus on things such as providing better socialhousing and preserving green spaces, and he suggests perhaps that if theirfocus wasn’t as narrow, it would be more effective in achieving sustainability.”Fairness” and “equity” are both included in the Irish Planning Institute’sdefinition of planning reminding us that the profession is strongly linked tovalues and ethics so although planners in local governments can often beconstrained by finances, they make their judgements on the basis of the commongood, an ambitious notion which has its roots two thousand years ago in thewritings of philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato. The common good suggeststhat planners work in a manner which is beneficial to the majority ofstakeholders. n the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution was asignificant catalyst for utopian experimentation. The rapid urbanisation andcapitalism during this time, particularly across Europe and the United Statesof America, came with unprecedented challenges such as the degradation in thequality of life within communities due to longer working hours, insufficientpay, overcrowding and poor living conditions. In response to this,industrialists such as Charles Fourier, Titus Salt, and the Lever Brothersidentified the hardships of their employees and decided to create newcommunities to reform their lives with better living conditions, access to servicesand facilities and an overall better quality of life for all. As well asimproving the relations between society and the economy, other utopianvisionaries strived to improve the relations between humans and theenvironment.
(Kleniewski, 2006) One such visionary was Ebenezer Howard, whoseGarden City was one of the most influential planning models produced in thetwentieth century. Howard envisioned a better environment; a marriage of thetown and country. He thought by combining the best elements of each place, hewould create an ideal community. Howard’s Garden City had a dense, compact towncentre complete with all necessary amenities, civic spaces, and servicescomplemented by clusters of smaller polycentric suburban areas. Between theseurban areas would be greenbelt and areas of vast open space used foragricultural activities, forestry and so on. The formality of this frameworkallows for efficient infrastructure to be put in place. If parts of thisapproach were applied to cities of today, it could help address many of thesustainability issues they face. Ensuring town centres are dense, mixed-use andused to their maximum potential is so important.
Agricultural or passivegreenbelts are vital in hindering urban sprawl. Urban vertical gardens, rooftopand community gardens, greening of the public realm, active green spaces – allof these would help enhance the liveability of a community. Another influentialfigure of the twentieth century in the discipline of planning was the architectLe Corbusier. He proposed the idea of a ‘Radiant City’ whose signature wasskyscrapers surrounded by open, green space intersected by the highway. “LeCorbusier argued that by increasing the number of people accommodated in abuilding, the amount of land covered could be reduced and the amount of openspace maximised, thus giving the city its green ‘lungs'”. (Kleniewski, 2006) LeCorbusier aimed to achieve efficient land-use by increasing the density of eachbuilding and leaving an abundance of open space for recreational or agriculturalactivities. While none of these utopianvisions in itself was the cure to all of the city’s ills, they influenced someof the practice of planners.
In reality, however, urban growth and development wasthe result of a market-driven process, proliferated by cheap energy and therapid growth of private cars as a symbol of wealth and an affordable means oftransport during the first half of the 20th century which lead to inefficient,urban sprawl. (Kleniewski, 2006, p.365) Urban planning and design adjustedquickly to the demand for car infrastructure required by suburban living andunrestrained land acquisition from agricultural areas, forests and other openspaces that became the norm as extensive road networks were constructed. Theavailability of the car meant that land-use functions could be separated bysingle-use zoning, precipitating even lower residential and job densities andmaking the private car the only rational means of transportation. As a resultof this type of “free-enterprise construction”, cities were not only “ugly” buthad a damaging impact on public health and the environment. Planners respondedto this though, realising it was not a sustainability way of development.
In anAmerican context, urban planners from England who were skilled in theconstruction of sanitary sewers were imported. Planners also sought to address theaesthetics of the city by thinking about architecture and design in a new way.”The so-called City Beautiful movement endeavoured to raise the standards ofdesign in public spaces and to bring art into the consciousness of the ordinarycitizen”. (Kleniewski, 2006, p. 367) This movement was adopted by many citiesall over the world in the early 1900s.
These same reformers also called onplanning to advocate for better living conditions particularly for the poor.”The origins of urban planning, then, were prompted by a mix of practicalrealities about public health and safety, desires for aesthetic surroundings,and aspirations to improve social conditions”. (Kleniewski, 2006, p. 367)In Davidoff’s (1965) Advocacy and Pluralism in Planning, hecritiques much of the mainstream planning practices. He believes that plannerscan often be quite insular when it comes to making decisions that affect thewider community, particularly public policy or comprehensive plans for a city,for example.
He says that “if the planning process is to encourage democraticurban government then it must operate so as to include rather than excludecitizens from participating in the process”. The planning process should be asdiverse as possible. He advises on which groups could/should be included in thedrafting of community plans such as those who represent special interest groupslike low-income families, political parties and organisations which may bedeemed as proponents of a plan such as a neighbourhood association resisting aland zoning change or controversial proposal. “The contention aroused by theconflict between the central planning agency and the neighbourhood organisationmay indeed be healthy, leading to a clearer definition of welfare policies andtheir relation to the rights of individuals or minority groups”. (Davidoff,1965, p. 334) He also states that “there are many possible roads for acommunity to travel and many plans should show them”.
(p.335) According toDavidoff, planners have a unique opportunity whether they are positioned in alocal authority or working on behalf of a client as a consultant, to shape theworld we live in. They have the power to address sustainability issues throughthe creation of policies and strategies, and collaborating with other municipalstaff, NGOs, residents’ associations, businesses and developers. Davidoff makesa call for more plural planning so that planners are in effect forced to opentheir eyes to different ways of doing things. Our society is constantlyevolving and shifting, and planners need to be responsive and evolve with thisand be innovate in doing so. Planners must adapt to the challenges society isfaced with today and be cognisant of the impacts that they can have in terms ofbecoming more sustainable. “Pluralism and advocacy are means for stimulatingconsideration of future conditions by all groups in society”.
(Davidoff, 1965,p. 334) He states that to be able to “wrestle effectively with the myriad ofproblems afflicting urban populations”, in other words to balance the threeprinciples of Brundtland’s triangle, there needs to be a departure from themyopic view that equates physical planning with urban planning and widen thescope to include social and economic planning. The latter programs of planning,according to Davidoff, require “the type of long range thought and informationthat have been brought forward in the realm of physical planning” (p.336) andfor planners to be “committed to both the process of planning and to particularsubstantive ideas”. (p.
337) According to the Irish Planning Institutesdefinition, this is exactly what planners of today do. “They integrate theexpertise of other built environment professions – and the inputs of variousstakeholder groups and organisations – with the best principles of spatialplanning and sustainable development in order to achieve workable and enduringsolutions to environmental and place-based challenges”. They are also skilledat putting forward “imaginative, practical and sustainable ideas, strategies,master plans and designs at different scales for commercial companies,institutions, civic authorities or community organisations”. (IPI, 2013)In conclusion, this essay has attempted to discuss, with theaid of several readings, that planners are in a unique position to address realworld sustainability issues due to the long-established roots and approaches ofthe discipline. The fact that many of the urban utopian thinkers such asEbenezer Howard and Le Corbusier had hints of sustainable development in theirmovement, leads us to believe that planners have always strived for this andhave a lot to offer in shaping the future of our cities.