“diagram no. 3” and more memories of the roots of urbanism

In the course of an 1848 speech, Benjamin Disraeli said that “a precedent embalms a principle”.

Today’s first myurbanist entry identified early principles of Roman “placemaking” as captured by Vitruvius.

This second entry recalls an intriguing diagram from almost two thousand years later which may have played a similar foundational role.

Writing in Green-Belt Cities in 1946, Frederic Osborn noted his candidate for the roots of a neighborhood focus in city planning— “precisely [within] the principles of development so lucidly expounded in” Ebenezer Howard’s 1902 Garden Cities of Tomorrow “and exemplified in the two Garden Cities which Howard founded…”

“He reinvented the neighborhood unit idea, which is to be found in More’s Utopia, and is implied in our system of local-government wards, but had been forgotten by townsmen…”

Osborn no doubt refers to Howard’s proposal that “… it is an important part of the project that each ward, or one-sixth part of the city, should be in some sense a complete town by itself, and thus the school buildings might serve, in the earlier stages, not only as schools, but as places for religious worship, for concerts, for libraries, and for meetings of various kinds….”

'Diagram No. 3', the school-centered ward. The modern origin of neighborhood planning? From Howard, Garden Cities of Tomorrow, 1902

Here, Howard encapsulated much of the neighborhood unit and then-contemporary “community center” movement, foreshadowed Clarence Perry by some 20 years, and, in his “Diagram No. 3,” perceptively showed the school at the ward’s center, a railroad station at the ward’s corner, and industry separated at the periphery.

As noted before, the challenges of integration of neighborhood and the city are not new, and may forever live on.

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