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There has been a renewal of interest in the' ideas and planning philosophy of Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) who was this man who pioneered the idea that the city should be studied in the context of the
Yet the his views are largely unknown lie partly in the way he chose to work and pass on his ideas, and partly in the character of the man himself. He scattered his ideas abroad by constant traveling fleeting exhibitions, and lecturing, and was happy when he met individuals receptive to his ideas.
Patrick Geddes has been described as one of the founders of modern town and regional planning in India. His ideas have influenced planning practice, regional economic development and environmental management He was appointed to the Chair of Sociology at University of Bombay in 1919 and continued until 1924. Geddes was asked to design the new Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1919 and travelled to it's opening in 1924.
In 1904 and 1905 Patrick Geddes read his famed, but today little-read, two-part paper, 'Civics: as Applied Sociology', to the first meetings of the British Sociological Society. Geddes is often thought of as a 'pioneer of sociology' (Mairet, 1957;Meller, 1990) and for some (egDevine, 1999: 296) as 'a seminal influence on sociology'. However, little of substance has been written to critically assess Geddes's intellectual legacy as a sociologist.
His conception of 'sociology', oriented towards social action from a standpoint explicitly informed by evolutionary theory
He confidently predicted' that the process of urbanisation should be analysed, and then directed, within the framework of the political economy of regional development. The aim of his life was to find a way of understanding the process of urbanization
He came from a rural background in East Scotland and he went, as a student, to study natural sciences under T.H.Huxley in the Royal School of Mines in the 1870’s. His imagination was seized both by his studies and his environment. He was in favour of progress, particularly progress based on wider application of modern scientific knowledge to every day life. He wanted to apply knowledge gained in natural sciences to ensure that such mass urbanization would not lead to greater social evils.
His starting point was his biological studies. He believed that so great had been technological, industrial, commercial advances of the age, that people had forgotten their well being and happiness was dependent ultimately on biological factors. He wanted to convince people, rural and urban people, British and foreign, that although their livelihood in the modern age was controlled by the world market forces, their lives were still governed by the biological forces of heredity and environment.
As a natural and social scientist Geddes was a unique figure in the town planning movement. His approach and ideas were outside all the major trends and concepts creating modern town planning as specialized and professional activity. He was happy to see new ideal and higher environmental standards being implemented as the modern town planning movement grew. His main concern was however, was for the quality of life of all city dwellers, whether they were the uprooted poor in big city, or inhabitants of Britain’s large industrial cities, like 'Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham or Leeds.
He saw more clearly than others that demolition schemes and road improvements did not solve social problems. Rather problems tendered to increase congestion, public health hazards and pollution was intensified in areas not affected by improvement schemes. What Geddes sought was a new way of relating a civic ideal for the future with the need to solve immediate social problem.
The role of a town planner therefore, is to identify those factors, single out those which are most beneficial and then nurture them to make sure that their potential for good is realised.
A life, even the life of cities, is subject to the evolutionary process. The origin growth and decay of cities or parts of cities is an inevitable organic process. With mass urbanization and modern industrial infrastructure, particularly transport and services, this process has become more socially disruptive and harmful
Once urban decay has started there are no forces to counteract it. The task of planner is thus to regenerate, to set a pattern once more for growth and development since the alternative is a permanent and disastrous decline
His starting point was the formula for social life of the French sociologist Fredric Le Play: Place, Work, and Folk. Geddes translated these in terms of the Social Sciences as Geography, Economics, Sociology, and Anthropology And he wanted to extend his comprehensive vision by using the life sciences as well, particularly biology and psychology.
Place, Work, Folk could also be translated as: Environment; Function and; Organism, These are the vital factors in evolution.
He invented a technique, which he described as a Regional Survey in which he attempted to develop new ways of observing and analyzing cities. It involved the collection of all known data on a city and its region, such as: its origin, its geography and climate, history and traditions and present economic and social structure.
The physical act of collecting such data not only revealed new insights into urbanisation, it also helped those concerned in the activity, to highlight the potential of the city and its region for future development. The regional survey thus could produce both a storehouse of information and also a long-term practical strategy for social development
Regional survey is the most important activity for planners. However, most planners are commissioned to produce plans because of specific problems, such as traffic congestion or slum housing or general physical plan. To deal with the short-term problem he used the concept call Conservative Surgery If the city and its population are an organic whole, then the wholesale demolition and restructuring of areas is similar to amputation of a limb on a living body. May be in extreme cases, it saves the life of the body, but only as a last resort.
What Geddes advocated was the kind of conservative surgery, which go to the heart of the problem, leaving as much as possible of the rest of the body intact. In planning term it means traffic congestion is not necessarily relieved by cutting wide roads through a city or establishing a gridiron pattern for the road system.
Congestion is always greatest at intersections, which are actually increased in number in many improvement schemes.
Geddes, therefore wanted to create traffic flows, widening roads where absolutely necessary, by pulling down carefully selected houses, mainly those already in a state of decay.
Geddes applied his technique of
conservative surgery to the full range of
problems created by urban growth. His approach to the problems of public health particularly, thus differed considerably from contemporary British and European practice. Geddes never forgot that solving such problems is a social as well as a practical problem and he did not put his faith blindly in a waterborne sewage system and water supply mains.
He was ready to respond to the problem in the context in which it occurred since healthy conditions had existed before the invention of drains. What has to be done is to find how the problem of dirt and pollution has been solved before and then educate people to observe the rules of their own culture and develop these methods to deal with the greater problems occasioned by modern urban growth
Geddes promoted his ideas through his own regional planning museum and sociological laboratory, the “Outlook Tower” that he set up in Edinburgh in the 1890's, whilst he also became involved in the propaganda-campaign to promote town-planning legislation. His reward was to be appointed as the first director of a special Cities and Town Planning Exhibition, which was held in London in 1910, to publicise the first British town-planning act, passed in 1909.
Geddes took over this Exhibition and made it his own, taking it to many different cities and eventually to India However, chances came for him in later life in India. Between 1914 and 1924 Geddes worked most in India, but also in Ceylon, and in Palestine. He produced about forty town-planning reports, written from a biological standpoint, yet all dealing, in varying degrees of detail, with specific places and problems. These reports remain his most important planning publications.
The contribution of Patrick Geddes The introduction of modern town-planning ideas really came to India with Geddes. Lord Pentland, Governor of Madras, invited him to bring the cities and town-planning exhibition and to contribute his education in town planning. Lord Pentland was also able to persuade his old friends Lord Willingdon and Carmichael, respectively Governors of Bombay and Bengal at that time, to interest them in Geddes’ work.
Geddes was thus able to gain encouragements for taking his Exhibition to the major Presidency towns in India. The original exhibition however, was lost on its way to India, through enemy action. Geddes himself arrived safely on another ship and friends and supporter of town planning in Britain and Europe sent him fresh material to recreate the Exhibition so that he could meet these engagements Taking the second exhibition round in different cities remained one of his major activity over the next ten years, a propaganda effort which he supplemented by running summer schools on city and community development in the hill station of Darjeeling
Geddes was constantly traveling, his personal enthusiasm for towns and cities, large and small, and his willingness to offer practical advice on all occasions. He did more than any other individual to promote-town Planning ideas.
Geddes personally persuades Lord Pentland to influence the state government of Madras to appoint the first official town planner in India in 1915,and suggested the name of H.V. Lanchester, architect, and editor of The Builder.
However, there was a total lack of professional expertise for planners to draw upon. A small class was set up in Madras, under the direction of Lanchester, to train recruits in the range of skills necessary for pursuit of efficient town planning. In 1919, he was offered, and accepted, the first chair of sociology at Bombay University, which he got renamed as chair of Civics and Sociology. Since the early days of British Sociology (Geddes was a founder member of the British Sociological Society in 1903) he had always tried the direct the study of the subject towards a very definite practical purpose
He believed that sociologists should be men of action who took a direct part in the great evolutionary struggle between society and its environment, to ensure that progressive tendencies were encouraged and retrogressive tendencies repressed. For him sociologist is a man/woman who could identify the former, and plan for their future development. This positivist approach was reinforced by a further legacy of Gedde’s evolutionism. He saw the struggle between environment and society as continuous and never ending.
As a town planner, therefore, he saw no point in providing municipal councils with Master Plans or ultimate solution. He believed in an participatory approach, involving officials, administrators and people equally, all being responsible on a micro or macro scale for the overall quality of the environment
Geddesian town planner is not a professional who knew the most efficient ways of laying out roads, organizing sewage systems, and the like. For him the town planner was the propagandist, the inspirational genius who would raise the consciousness of the whole community, to the life and death, evolutionary struggle in which all are inexorably involved. Gedde’s ideas on modern town planning were thus hardly representative or even the modern town planning movement in the west.
Only in India largely cut off by the European holocaust from normal ties with Europe, was Geddes able flourish. The profound social and political changes which had been taking place in India in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and which were now speeded up by the first world war, created an atmosphere in which the enthusiasm of Geddes could meet with some response. On a practical level, his participatory approach had the very great advantage over other planning schemes, put forward by the British public health officers and sanitarians, of being relatively cheap
Princely rulers of native states were particularly responsive to this. The Maharaja of Indore, for instance, had spent crore of rupees on the alternative water supply for Indore which was designed to flush water through the sewers and cut the incidence of the Plague. But all the elaborate schemes to find and harness extra water singularly failed in their objectives. The Maharaja was thus more than willing to commission Geddes with his reputation for efficiency and cheapness, to prepare a report on how to deal with Indore’s economic and social problems and its future development.
What he got for his money may have surprised him, for Geddes put his heart and soul into-his Indore Report. He came to the city and stayed for ten months, in great contrast to his usual practice of paying flying visits of a week or two at a time. He had paid assistants to collect and arrange all relevant data for him. After months of intensive work, he produced a report in two volumes in which detailed attention was given to problems of housing and water supply. But the main thrust of his argument was directed towards the future position of Indore in the evolution of modern India
In second volume of the report he suggested that a great university of Central India should be set up in Indore. Students at this centre of high education should be exposed to that kind of study, his concept of Civic and sociology being high on the list, in which book study would be supplemented by social action
Geddes' approach to practical planning was thus highly original and totally different to most of the town planning propagandists operating in the West. However, in the context of the Indian cities, his approach had one outstanding advantage. He was prepared to operate in the economic and social circumstances in which he found himself; and he was not prepared to adopt without question any of the Western responses for controlling the problems of cities. He was totally opposed to expensive and unrealistic activities of the British engineers and sanitarians with their belief in wide-open thoroughfares, wholesale destruction of slum areas, flushed sewer, etc. Whilst Improvement trusts rarely had the power to make a comprehensive impact on the total environment of the city.
Geddes Produced his plans and reports on an individual basis as a GURU of city development but he did not try to operate according to his own two cardinal rules. First, the prime objective of the planner should be to understand the nature and historical evolution of the society whose environment was to be planned; secondly the planner has to make sure that the planning objectives were realistic, appropriate and satisfying on economic and social, aesthetic and spiritual level. This was quite the opposite of the normal treatment meted out to cities in colonial countries by their rulers, and marks Geddes' most significant contribution.
Bogle wrote a treatise on town planning in India in 1929 after his experience as Chief Engineer of the Lucknow Improvement Trust In it he wrote, a credo for town planning in India, which was obviously, though anonymously, influenced by Geddes, which he set out as follows: What town planning Means 1. DEFINITE PLAN of or "NOT the immediate Execution of plan
Orderly development for the. the whole Town into which each Improvement will fit as it is wanted 2. CARE AND PRESERVATION of human life and energy, particularly child life
NOT indifference to congestion and insanitation
3. PROVISION of good Building sites. NOT leaving narrow and awkward shaped plots 4. ENCOURAGEMENT Facilities for business NOT interruption of OF TRADE and increased, trade.
. 5. PRESERVATION OF HISTORICAL BUILD INGS and buildings of Religions veneration with all their traditions -
NOT destruction of old landmarks
6. THE DEVELOPMENT of an INDIAN CITY but the Worthy of civic pride. 7. Health, pleasant Surroundings and recreation for all
Not on imitation of European cities Utilisation of what is best in them. Not merely expensive roads and parks available only for rich
8. Control over the future growth with adequate provision of future Buildings, etc Not haphazard laying out
According to Ramchadra Guha “In one of the two volumes he penned for the city of Indore in 1919, Geddes writes, `As the physician makes a diagnosis of the patient's case before prescribing treatment, so with the planner of a city. He looks closely into the city as it is and enquires into how it has grown and how it has suffered. As the physician associates the patient with his own cure, so must the planner appeal to the citizen'. Geddes felt that the democratic town planner must pay special attention to the needs of underprivileged groups. He also stressed the importance of the rights and needs of women and children. He appreciated creation of courtyards and balconies where women could have their own private space." Geddes was against unnecessary demolitions ostensibly meant to improve the town. In 1918, for instance, he opposed the "sweeping clearances and vigorous demolitions that were coming into fashion" in Barauch”
Lewis Mumford and Patrick Geddes Patrick Geddes was a vitalistic philosopher of catholic interests - the ‘professor of things in general’ - Lewis Mumford was his pupil, friend and ultimately his successor. Their relationship, and the nature of the succession is of more importance than might first appear, for they have resonance today in arguments around bioregionalism and the history of eco-anarchism. Lewis Mumford (1934: 475) acknowledged Patrick Geddes as 'my master' and claimed that Geddes's published work does 'but faint justice to the magnitude and range and originality of his mind; for he was one of the outstanding thinkers of his generation, not alone in Great Britain, but in the world'.
Mumford and Geddes’s unifying idea was the need for holistic, evolutionary analysis of the city in the region. Analysing their own evolution, we see that Geddes brought radical ideas from Continental Europe and combined them with traditions of Scottish philosophy. He applied them in Edinburgh, Bombay, Jerusalem, Dublin, and elsewhere, and Mumford took them, moulded them and, arguably, influenced Roosevelt’s New Deal. To a great extent this is the story of ideas being shared across the globe, and being misapplied and dilluted en route. Geddes himself wrote that ‘the central and vital tradition of Scottish culture have always been wedded with that of France’. He was deeply impressed by the founding fathers of French geography, Elisee Reclus (1830-1905) and Paul Vidal de la Blache (1845-1918), as well as the conservative sociologist, Frederic Le Play (1806-82) and his student Edward Demolins.
Ultimately, it was the calm and organised Mumford, rather than the chaotic and inspiring Geddes who influenced regional planning. Perhaps, as Novak hints, the two together would have been more than the sum of their parts, and the truly radical elements of Geddes work survived intact. But the fact remains that Geddes constructivegeneralism was too broad to fit into ‘planning’ alone. A final possibility explaining the dissolution of Geddes radicalism is that regional planning was not a large enough field for Geddes to influence.
Geddes has been hijacked by the planning fraternity, who have, in preserving his name from oblivion, also narrowed it into a space in which it cannot breath. Gone is the pioneering ecology, the arguments for self-management, mutual aid and decentralisation, and in its place an insipid and technocratic paternalism. The glaring contradiction between the crimes that have been done by planners, who still claim Geddes as their inspiration is breathtaking
Geddes influenced the urban planning movement in many different ways. His work on regional surveying influenced Lewis Mumford and numerous others. Mumford, however, did not totally accept Geddes' ideas on social reconstruction. Yet, the method of considering social implications in city planning has carried over to the sustainable city projects of today. His understanding of the connection between the individual and the environment, as described in his last major work, Life Outlines of General Biology, constitutes the core of modern planning.
In the last years of his life, Geddes settled in southern France, building a school at Montpellier. He tried to teach his views of life and the sciences. While his son Arthur helped Geddes with his school in Montpellier, the Outlook Tower in Edinburgh received less attention and eventually had to close. Still, Geddes was recognized for his lifelong efforts by being knighted in 1931. On April 17, 1932, Geddes passed away.
Boardman, Philip. Patrick Geddes: Maker of the Future. The University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill 1944. Kitchen, Paddy. A Most Unsettling Person: The Life and Ideas of Patrick Geddes. Founding Father of City Planning and Environmentalism. Saturday Review Press 1975. Meller, Helen. Patrick Geddes: Social Evolutionist and City Planner. Routledge: New York, 1990. Wilson, James. The thoughts of Patrick Geddes. Scots Magazine, 1980. H59 G2 Edinburgh Room
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