New Urbanism (previously
) is a hot topic these days, yet its core idea of building walkable cities that rely less on automobiles can be traced to a city plan created almost a century ago: the Radburn Design
.The Radburn design (PDF)
, created in the 1920s, was the brainchild of Clarence Stein
and Henry Wright
working in conjunction with the Regional Planning Association of America. This group of architects and planners wanted to develop a community that would minimize accidents caused by car/pedestrian contact.
The general idea of the plan
was to create a hierarchical system of roads, each of which carried a different amount of traffic. The most traveled roads would run completely around the outside of the community, while those that entered the community would carry much less traffic. The least traffic of all would run on housing streets, and these streets would terminate in what is perhaps Radburn’s most lasting legacy
Houses in the Radburn design were built on superblocks of land in the middle of the housing streets. All houses were built with their backs to the roads, while the fronts faced other houses across common green areas. The original plan for Radburn was for a 30,000 person city, but the market crash of 1929 meant that only 10% of the city could be built. While a few other places
in the US experimented with the Radburn design before WW2, it never became very widespread, perhaps due in part to a miscalculation by Stein and Wright as to how popular car travel would become.
Post-war city planners in Australia and the UK tried to combine ideas from the Radburn design with then-contemporary ideas about public housing, often seeming to use the worst of each system in their new creations. In Australia
, it was implemented in a number of locations, such as Canberra (e.g., Charnwood
), the Gold Coast
, Sydney (Rosemeadow Estates)
, and near Melbourne
. In recent years in both Australia and the UK demolitions have taken place to start over
and erase old Radburn-design areas.
Radburn’s legacy seems to be a cautionary tale for unfettered planning optimism (PDF)
. Radburn, NJ,
however, is still a working community and “a town for the motor age.”