The city represents a layered complexity that appears to be irreducible to any ultimate principle or determination. In a modern city, theoretical and physical boundaries are ambiguous and undefined. The city is not an entity; it is composed of multiplicities, a space for government, of accidents and events through which a manner of conceiving and constructing space is derived based on several stable, isolatable, and interconnected properties. It represents a confluence of cultures, diversity, and tolerance. It is composed of a series of networks and relationships running parallel to each other and crossing over at nodes or junctions which represent the instances at which systems converge, providing coherence to a complex matrix. The promise of coherence is granted only through the summary designation of the proper name which coagulates diverse and otherwise discontinuous moments of space.

Therefore, the city is more than just geographical space, and the role of city planners in this milieu is dedicated to the capturing and shaping of human, spatial and ideological forces which influence the design of the built environment. 

1. Kevin Lynch

The noted American urbanist, author and city planner captured and articulated mental mapping techniques used by observers contributing to the imageability of cities. In the book “The Image of the City’ the author identifies the features that create cohesive mental maps and patterns in the urban fabric and lists them as Paths, Edges, Districts, Nodes, and Landmarks. Paths are defined by the distance between two points, edges as the articulation of the border conditions between urban entities and paths, nodes as the junctions or points within urban networks, districts as neighbourhoods and clusters grouped as a result of their homogeneity, and landmarks as independent structures that function as tools for navigation and orientation in the urban fabric. This notational system created by Lynch has been used to analyze several American cities and is a formidable tool that can be manipulated to discern the urban structuring of cities, creating mental maps for the observer. 

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2. Sir Patrick Abercrombie

Patrick Abercrombie (1879-1957) a prominent figure with the Garden City Association and a planner of considerable repute in Great Britain, designed the County of London Plan in collaboration with J.H.Forshaw, an architect in the London County Council, the administrative body entrusted with the responsibility of drafting the plan. This was followed by the Greater London Plan in 1944 commissioned by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning for the region of London. His work created demarcated regions allocated for housing and industry in a post-war Britain, addressing contemporary urban issues such as the unprecedented and unchecked growth of London, deteriorating housing conditions, congested traffic systems, insufficient public open spaces, and incoherence in programmatic distribution at an urban, regional and district level. The plan defined four concentric zones, the innermost being the densest, the second composed primarily of residential districts, the third of the green belt creating a buffer between the urban expansion of London and regional communities with farming areas, and the fourth and outermost ring comprising of decentralized industry and housing on undeveloped sites.

 The zoning was discarded as an attempt to restructure a cityscape that had grown organically throughout history with an iron hand. However, Abercrombie’s strength at simplifying a complex socio-economic diagram and presenting it as a blueprint was recognized and greatly appreciated. His contribution to the Greater London Plan was praised as the classic example of town planning that was relevant to the time addressing several issues across urban and rural contexts.

It has also been described as ‘the mature organism born of the garden city embryo’ formulated by Ebenezer Howard. 

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3. Sir Ebenezer Howard

Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928) accredited for the ‘Garden City’ an environmental and urban planning movement an early 20th-century liberal utopian project representing a refined and ideal social model of industrialism and economic reform. The movement presented its ideals with the town placed in the context of town-planning emphasizing the existence of a town plan which would address the shortcomings of an incrementally growing organic metropolis. By limiting the size and growth of the town and preserving valuable green space, agricultural land, and forests, the need to reimagine urban life in small towns set closer to rural contexts was realized. The feasibility of the Garden City scheme was based on the idea of a ‘Garden City Company’ that would purchase land from a landowner or developer and operate independently, outside public urban regulations in an attempt to industrialize the countryside and increase economic output. The vision of the ‘Social City’ surrounded by six satellite towns or Garden cities with a limited number of residents illustrates Howard’s drive for investigating land reform systems and town planning, in addition to the original premise the Garden City was founded upon – a social organization of a new category of space bridging the urban-rural divide. 

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4. Sir Patrick Geddes

Patrick Geddes (1854 – 1932), a British biologist, sociologist, philanthrope, and urban planner is best known for introducing the concept of ‘region’ to architectural discourse and expanding upon earlier works on the subject influenced by social theorists such as Herbert Spencer and French Theorist Frederic Le-Play. His interpretation of the city as a system comprising common interlocking patterns inseparably woven into a structure similar to a flower demonstrates his belief in these systems functioning cohesively as parts of a whole. This refutes the modern scientific inclination towards specialization that is concentrated on singular processes and networks, too weak and insufficient to function independently, and therefore resulting in the inevitable separation of these individual petals disturbing the complete comprehensive city form. 

Geddes’ humanistic planning involved a ‘constructive and conservative surgical approach’ in a row of slum tenements in James Court, Edenborough that would preserve human habitat where necessary, and ‘weed out the worst of the houses that surrounded them’ in other places ‘widening the narrow closes into courtyards.’ By adopting a more economical and humane approach, he consciously rejected the gridiron plan prevalent in town planning schemes during the 19th and 20th centuries. He is also known for his work on the development of a regional planning model called the ‘Valley Section’ that illustrated the interdependence of humans and their natural environments and the importance of channelling this knowledge to inform future design.

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5. Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs (1916 – 2006)the American-Canadian journalist, author, activist and critic of conservative planning measures of slum clearance and urban renewal schemes is best known for her book, ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’. Her work has influenced urban studies, sociology and economics, emphasizing the role of the residents and city dwellers in plans pertaining to their local neighbourhoods. Through her efforts in successfully resisting inhumane urban renewal schemes including Robert Moses’ plans of demolishing her own Greenwich Village, the construction of Lower Manhattan Expressway, and the Spadina Expressway, among others, which would have intersected established communities and settlements, she gained a reputation as an activist and reformer. She was vocal about the rights of residents and spearheaded campaigns supporting the role of communities and their right to voice their opinion, therefore influencing preservation, renewal and regeneration schemes in their neighbourhoods. 

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6. Sir Edwin Lutyens

Edwin Lutyens is best known in the Indian context for the planning and design of the administrative capital of New Delhi after the decision of moving the East India Company’s seat of power from Calcutta to Delhi was taken. Lutyens was commissioned alongside Herbert Baker to design and execute New Delhi’s Imperialist Architecture, although his work primarily comprised of English country houses, while Baker was recognized for his work on South African governmental buildings and other projects of international repute. The overall design was heavily influenced by the Palladian Classical and Neo-classical features and the ‘Avant-Garde’ that was adopted to reflect the spirit of 20th century India, consciously departing from the Indo-Saracenic style had previously defined the architectural tone in the subcontinent. Characterized by high domes, collonaded porticoes, ceremonial stairs, and approaches, the design of the secretariat was well integrated with the monuments of Old Delhi. Lutyens’ collaboration with Gertrude Jekyll, the English Landscape designer, manifested itself in broad avenues in the political capital lined with indigenous trees, mini gardens at rotaries, and canals and fountains at the Government House. Thus, the design of the new capital and the seat of British India acquired the title of ‘garden city’. 

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7. Sir Peter Geoffrey Hall

Peter Hall (1932 – 2014) an English town planner, urbanist and geographer has been one of the most influential urbanists of the 20th century. Having served in numerous Planning Associations and as planning and regeneration advisor to successive UK governments, his expertise in the field remains uncontested. He is known to have conceived and pioneered the ‘Enterprise Zone Concept’ that has since been adopted worldwide for industrial and economic growth in disadvantaged areas. He has also taught at the Bartlett, University College London as Professor of Planning and Regeneration and presided over both the Town and Country Planning Association and the Regional Studies Association. 

He proposed the idea of the ‘Freeport’ in the city that later came to be known as the ‘Enterprise Zone’. These zones inspired by Hong Kong in the 1950s permitted the free exchange of capital and people exempt from taxes and bureaucracy, with highly subsidized development. In his opinion, British planning had been deteriorating and he encouraged his countrymen to take inspiration from the success of European practitioners. His idea of forming clusters of existing towns and new garden cities to activate the urban fabric in the northeast, Midlands, and Southeast of England was recognized as a significant contribution to the Field of Regional Studies in 2008. He is well remembered today as Transport for London has dedicated a train to appreciate his contribution to London’s transport infrastructure. 

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8. Charles Correa

Educated at the University of Michigan under the guidance of Buckminster Fuller, and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Charles Correa pursued a career as an architect and an urbanist in Mumbai His portfolio comprised of projects in Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi and Ahmedabad including the Mahatma Gandhi Sangrahalaya at Sabarmati Ashram. His residential projects, ranging from low-income housing to condominiums were inspired by local traditional building materials, techniques and vernacular architecture departing from the post-modernist glass and steel style.

As a result, his work responds to the Indian psyche while simultaneously offering contemporary solutions that resonate globally. The remnants of his style and influence can be found across the subcontinent, with his most prominent contribution to Indian architecture and urbanism being the planning of Navi Mumbai or (New Mumbai). 

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References :

  1. Ridley, Jane “Edwin Lutyens, New Delhi, and the architecture of imperialism” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (1998), 26:2, 67-83, DOI: 10.1080/03086539808583025
  2. Irving, Robert Grant. “Indian Summer: Lutyens, Baker and Imperial Delhi, New Haven and London” Yale University Press, 1981, 406 pp., 273 illus. $50.00 (cloth), $15.95 (paper). 
  3. Irving, Robert Grant. “Architecture for Empire’s Sake: Lutyens’s Palace for Delhi.” Perspecta 18 (1982): 7-23. Accessed August 15, 2020. DOI:10.2307/1567032.
  5. Isin, Engin F. Osborne, Thomas. Rose, Nikolas. “Governing Cities: Liberalism, Neoliberalism, Advanced Liberalism” Toronto: Urban Studies Programme, York University, 1998 ISBN: 1550143417
  6. Abercrombie, Patrick. Greater London Plan. HM Stationery Office, 1944.
  7. Jean-Yves Tizot, « Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City Idea and the Ideology of Industrialism », Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne], 87 Printemps | 2018, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2018, consulté le 16 août 2020. URL :; DOI:

Trisha Sarkar is an architect and an urbanist with a foundation in fine art followed by a B.Arch from CEPT University, Ahmedabad, and a Master’s degree in City Design from the Royal College of Art, London.Her workharnesses the potential of architecture to inspire critical thought and instil sensitivity.