University of Tasmania
whole_DownesEleanor1999_thesis.pdf (15.55 MB)

People, places and culture

Download (15.55 MB)
posted on 2023-05-26, 22:35 authored by Downes, Eleanor
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, 1977). 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 1990's. 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.


Publication status

  • Unpublished

Rights statement

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

Repository Status

  • Open

Usage metrics

    Thesis collection


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager