Urban development as the result of political, economic, and social forces--an approach to urban planning
McEnany, Michael Vernon
Cannady, William T.
Master of Architecture
The area of this investigation has been the examination of urban development from the foundation of man's first social institutions to the present "free city" of the United States. Throughout history, no example of organization, no development or discovery was ever a result of pure organic growth. In every case of the evolution of man's physical environment, there have been determining reasons. Physical form has and will continue to be determined by the political, economic and social forces prevalent at any given time acting on new or inherited physical situations. The urban environment is the physical manifestation of power structure. In our present day in the United States, planning as is generally understood has proven to be of little use. Two dimensional land use plans or the authoritarian super-scheme have no meaning and therefore no value. Our increasingly complex society cannot be categorized by either simple diagrams or master systems. A meaningful dialectic cannot result from personal caprice. It is my thesis that any meaningful planning proposals must have as their basis the political, economic and social factors prevalent in the society at that particular time. The proposals which will be most influential in shaping and directing future physical structure will not be the most inventive and creative form studies, but rather will be the schemes based on the clearest understanding of the developing aims and ambitions of our society. The great majority of recent planning proposals are based on either a personal, subjective reaction to existing conditions or an over application of the findings of myopic analysis. Insight into how the political, economic and social forces have determined the physical. environment of the past and objective criteria for the analysis of current proposals will better enable the planner to organize man's activities than the usual repertoire of mechanical and sculptural gymnastics. In the examination of the political, economic and social forces in the present United States, it becomes apparent that the power structure is very dissimilar to any situation of the past. The ability to act is by comparison greatly dispersed and is lacking in any clear direction. The physical environments which presently best mirror the attitudes of our society are Los Angeles and Houston. It is my opinion that the increasing public concern about air and water pollution, increasing crime, impossible transportation facilities, the projected population increases and the resulting necessities of physical plan, unnecessary conditions of poverty and increasingly expensive military involvement will have a profound effect on our urban institutions. Any meaningful planning in the United States will have as its basis the developing directions of these political, economic and social pressures. The role of the planner is to translate the ideals and attitudes of his society into ordered reality. This task has been the same throughout history.