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Schools as generators of urban change: the relationship between social infrastructure and physical form

By A. Lubinsky


The state-funded compulsory school emerged out of the social turmoil of the late 19th century as a means of training and integrating working class and immigrant children into a changing world. These schools were generally physically impressive buildings, looming over surrounding slums and designed to act as ‘civilising’ influences. This thesis postulates that the school building has, over the last 100 years, also played a larger role in structuring the wider urban environment as a means of facilitating the shifts to a centralised modern industrial economy and, over the course of the last 20 years, to a network-based, choice-based, free market society. The typology of the school buildings, in terms of its size and location, has adapted to perform this role. The first half of this thesis, The School that Built a Town, argues that the modern school, from the early 1900s until the 1980s, was a significant instrument of centralised states in establishing the development of rational ‘neighbourhoods’, with a range of impacts including the control of traffic patterns, the density of residential areas, the distribution of land uses and the provision of community centres. The instrumental relationship between the school building and the neighbourhood unit is explored in the contexts of the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa. The second half of this thesis, The Implications of School Choice for Urban Structure and School Building Typology, explores the role of the school in a postmodern free market world, where school choice has dramatically ended the historical one-to-one relationship between a school and its surrounding neighbourhood. Three case studies considering areas of London, New York City and Cape Town examine three different school choice policies, each of which exert specific influences on the structure of their wider urban environments

Publisher: UCL (University College London)
Year: 2009
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Provided by: UCL Discovery
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