The Legacy of Raymond Unwin
A Human Pattern for Planning
Sir Raymond Unwin (1863-1940) was the best-known town and regional planner of the last quarter of the nineteenth and first third of the twentieth century. Largely as a result of his efforts, whole towns were built, comprehensive and far-sighted building laws enacted, and several professional societies founded. He taught at numerous universities and served as adviser to both British and American governments. He was an architect and planner who loved “pure design” and natural beauty but who would not permit these passions to blind him to the equal importance of economics, law, or social psychology.
In this selection of Unwin's writings, which includes early unpublished essays and excerpts from all of his major books and articles, and in the choice of numerous illustrations, including family portraits, slides from lectures, diagrams, and plans, the editor has captured the warmth and spirit of the man as well as his accomplishments and beliefs.
The essays reflect the emphasis Unwin places on interaction over individualism, cooperation over competition, and the need to re-create a mode or pattern of life that will have its outward expression in a more planned order of cities and of the surrounding region. The relative size of objects in the environment and their distance from one another are among his prime concerns and lead to the ideal of the satellite city and new town. Unwin declined to take the metropolis or suburb for granted and tried to explain the irrational forces at work in their creation, noting especially the lack of logic and discipline brought on by the automobile. Behind and beneath it all was his concern for human contact and late nineteenth-century popular responsibility. He was perhaps most remarkable for his ability to inspire, lead, and organize other men, but also notable was his free and creative use of statistics and diagrams, his recognition of the law as a social instrument, and his sensitivity and steadfastness in the appreciation of beauty. He could operate on several levels at once, and the range of his comprehension was enormous. He was a specialist who could coordinate.
Often appearing naïve, even childish to alter eyes in his premise of goodwill from and for all, Unwin nevertheless possessed extraordinary intelligence, and has much to teach the young planner of today. As the editor states in his introduction: “... there is also a thread in Unwin's practice and thought as represented by h is writing that may be altogether golden: it may show that ideas, even in the modern age when stretched against overwhelming odds and put under excruciating pressures, can have a cumulative worth... and a great human durability; that true innovation and revolution in the science of planning may consist in discovering what to save and remember, as well as what to save and remember, as well as what to originate in each generation; indeed, that they are legitimately part of the same process.”