Bioregional Urbanism: Reflecting on the Legacy of the RPAA Through the Lens of Jaqueline Tyrwhitt

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Planning Perspectives

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The Regional Planning Association of America (RPAA) was formed in 1923 to promote urban development based on the English Garden City ideal linked to the regionalism of Patrick Geddes. But Lewis Mumford, the RPAA’s principal spokesperson, incorporated his version of Geddes’ ideas in the RPAA’s agenda. Arguably the RPAA/Mumford’s vision of garden cities as a remedy for the problems of the sprawling metropolis incorrectly became identified with Geddes. This essay presents a more nuanced perspective by examining the RPAA and efforts to relaunch it, starting in the late 1930s, through the lens of Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, who was largely responsible for the revival of interest in Geddes’s ideas after World War Two. The paper traces the development of Tyrwhitt’s ideas as she introduces Geddes in his own words to a new generation, thus dispelling previous misconceptions, and formed an influential synthesis of Geddes’ bioregionalism and modernist urbanism that framed debates on post-war reconstruction. She put forward the urban constellation – a further development of Geddes’ concept of the conurbation – explicitly as an alternative to the relaunched RPAA’s call for decentralization, now as strategy for civil defense.


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