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Housing-Based Urban Planning? Sir Patrick Geddes’ Modern Masterplan for Tel Aviv, 1925

By Yael Allweil and Noa Zemer


This article studies Sir Patrick Geddes’ housing-based urban planning, pointing to a less-explored aspect of his groundbreaking work, while proposing ways to rethink the history and theory of modern urban planning towards a “housing builds cities” planning agenda. Focusing on Geddes’ modern urban planning for Tel Aviv in 1925 as housing-based urbanism, this article conceives urban structure and urban housing as one single problem rather than disconnected realms of planning. Based on new findings and revised study of available sources, we look into three planning processes by which policy makers, planners, and dwellers in Tel Aviv engaged in this housing-based urban vision: (1) The city as a housing problem; (2) the city as social utility for reform and reconstruction; and (3) housing-based urbanization as self-help. We show how Geddes’ modern urban plan for Tel Aviv employed the city’s pressing housing needs for urban workers to provoke planning by way of cooperative neighborhoods based on self-help dwellings. This approach was grounded on Geddes’ survey of Tel Aviv’s early premise on housing and extends beyond Geddes’ period to the brutalist housing estates of the 1950s and 1960s. The result is a new historiographic perspective on Tel Aviv’s UNESCO-declared modern urbanism vis-à-vis housing as the cell unit for urban living. Further, insights regarding Tel Aviv’s housing-based planning are relevant beyond this city to other examples of the town planning movement. It proposes rethinking modern urban planning before the consolidation of CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) principles, namely when planned settlements were explicitly experimental and involved diverse processes, scales, methods, practices and agents. Housing—a key arena for the modernization of the discipline of architecture, as well as for the consolidation of the discipline of urban planning—is studied here as the intersection of sociopolitical, formal, aesthetic, and structural elements of the city

Topics: city planning; Garden City; housing; modern planning; Patrick Geddes; Tel Aviv; urban theory; urban workers
Publisher: 'Cogitatio'
Year: 2019
DOI identifier: 10.17645/up.v4i3.2182
OAI identifier:

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