Goodbye to Sir Peter Hall

So back in 1997, I asked my planning theory instructor for book recommendations on planning history. I had taken his class on planning history and theory, and he is an exceptional theorist, so the class was heavy on theory. He suggested Leonie Sandercock’s Towards Cosmopolis and Peter Hall’s Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the 21st Century. My dear instructor hinted strongly that Sandercock’s work was great and Hall’s was not. I felt, and still feel, differently. Both were wonderful, and his suggesting them together was brilliant. It made for a marvelous few weeks’ reading. Sandercock’s work centered on the social and political uses of history, of showing how dominant narratives about history reinforce oppression. Cities of Tomorrow, however, was a book I wish had written, and while every urban historian I have ever met says they “have problems with the book”, I’ve never lost my affection for the long days reading that long book. Of course historians have a problem with it: I’ve never encountered a historian yet who has ever really accepted “a history of ideas” as set in stone.

Peter Hall died this week. Here is his obituary in the Gaurdian. It’s been nearly 20 years since I read Cities of Tomorrow.

H/T to Gerardo Gambirazzio for the Gaurdian link.