Architecture and Planning ETDs

Publication Date



What has determined the open space configuration in twentieth century British and American new town plans? Where is the open space, how is it used, and to what extent have open space and landscape been determinants of urban form? Does open space planning in the twentieth century reflect earlier tradi­tions? These are the questions examined in this thesis.

An introductory chapter surveys traditions of open space planning in urban areas. The body of the thesis is a series of eight case studies, chosen to represent seventy-five years of new town planning. In Britain, the towns are: Letchworth, Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage, Harlow, Cumbernauld, and Milton Keynes; in America, the towns are Greenbelt and Columbia, Maryland. New town plans, writings of their designers, de­velopers or managers, works of critics and researchers, and my personal observations constitute the sources.

Each case study is set in its broader historical con­text, with emphasis on planning principles. The studies in­clude descriptions of the site, plan elements, major open space and landscape features and activities observed in them, and analysis of individual town problems. Photos and plan diagrams accompany the text.

The concluding chapter summarizes those attitudes toward nature, uses of open space, and design techniques from earlier traditions that are reflected in new town plans. Fea­tures that have remained constant during the seventy-five year period are identified. Among evolutionary features, it is observed that the use of open space as an urban form determinant has been superseded in recent plans by transportation elements, and that the relationship between town and country has changed from functional to symbolic.

The thesis makes the following recommendations for future new towns:

---In order to allow contact with real nature, a deep "greenside" rather than a narrow greenbelt ringing the town, should be provided by subsidies, greenbelt legislation, land use controls, and coordinated planning;

---A variety of linked open spaces within the town should function as a foot and cycle transportation network and should allow for a variety of experiences including daily contact with a microcosm of nature;

---Housing clusters in small neighborhoods excluding through traffic should be linked by pathways to open spaces and flexible facilities;

---In dense housing areas, freely available open spaces should be provided close to home for uses where privacy is not essential; where privacy is desirable, protection may be af­forded by screening and staggered building forms;

---In order to increase the urbanity of new town cen­ters, pathways should be used to bring people there on foot and cycle, and a broader age mix should be attracted with denser housing forms for older people and childless young people;

---Despite the appeal of "flexibility", open space should continue to serve as a determinant of urban form.



Document Type


Degree Name


Second Degree


Level of Degree


Department Name

School of Architecture and Planning

First Committee Member (Chair)

Richard Alan Anderson

Second Committee Member

William Rogers Gafford

Third Committee Member

William Weismantel

Fourth Committee Member

Don Paul Schlegel

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Architecture Commons