The Radburn Idea

Radburn's ultimate role was quite different from our original aim. It was not to be a Garden City. It did not become a complete, balanced New Town. Instead of proving the investment value of large-scale housing it became, as a result of the depression, a financial failure.Yet Radburn demonstrated for America a new form of city and community that fits the needs of present day urban living in America, and it is influencing city building throughout the world. We did our best to follow Aristotle's recommendation that a city should be built to give its inhabitants security and happiness.

The need for Radburn. American cities were certainly not places of security in the twenties. The automobile was a disrupting menace to city life in the United States—long before it was in Europe. In 1928 there were 21,308,159 automobiles registered (as compared with 5 in 1895). The flood of motors had already made the gridiron street pattern, which had formed the framework for urban real estate for over a century, as obsolete as a fortified town wall. Pedestrians risked a dangerous motor street crossing 20 times a mile. The roadbed was the children's main play space. Every year there were more Americans killed or injured in automobile accidents than the total of American war casualties in any year. The checkerboard pattern made all streets equally inviting to through traffic. Quiet and peaceful repose disappeared along with safety. Porches faced bedlams of motor throughways with blocked traffic, honking horns, noxious gases. Parked cars, hard grey roads and garages replaced gardens. It was in answer to such conditions that the Radburn plan was evolved. For America it was a revolution in planning; a revolution, I regret to say, which is far from completed.

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