A B-29 over Osaka, Japan on 1 June 1945

Introduction to City Planning 3: Midcentury Modern (1940-1979)

This course explores the central role of planning in envisioning cities in the middle 20th century. World War II and the Cold War re-ordered power and politics in new ways. The tragic destruction and loss of World War II gave transformed into exciting opportunities for planners to try new things, in new ways.

  • English
  • 64 Mins
  • Published
What You Will Learn
  • Understand the evolution of contemporary planning by comparing previous movements and the origins of modern design, social reform, policies and politics. 

  • Identify key global shifts in the cultural, economic, political and industrial relationships and hierarchies between and across different cities. 

  • Recognize how city planning as a discipline emerged from the ideas of writers, politicians, architects, designers, and social reformers. 

  • Compare and contrast the ways that technology and innovations change cities and the way planners must plan for cities, from cars, airplanes and air conditioning to the use of computers.  

  • Critically evaluate how historical planning movements were successful (and we still borrow from them) but also how they were failed, and how and why some cities rose and fell over time (and the relevance for cities today). 

  • Recognize and assess the relationships between planning, the economy, politics and society – the way that industrial innovation gave rise to revolutions and transformative social movements, and make links to the contemporary urban world.

Apocalypse. World War II shatters cities and societies from London to Tokyo. In those areas untouched by the bombs, other massive transformations are underway. American cities, for example, were reshaped by urban renewal and the older urban fabric destroyed by planners, not enemy firebombers. In some cases, the results were similar. The war gave rise to new and bold visions for planning and, for some, an opportunity to make a better world. Ideas in philosophy and even science fiction (such as futurism) joined new ways of planning and thinking about urban space. Planning begins to move from strictly ‘rational’ to incorporate a human dimension, and grassroots planning is born in response to the scale of modernism. Meanwhile, as the colonial world little by little gains independence, new hybrids form and alternative modernities emerge. Cities such as Tokyo would become hubs of the urban future, and the great cities of the Global South begin to challenge the established order. Civil rights would gain importance to planning in the United States and elsewhere. Planners would be some of the most notable actors in civil rights movements. As part of rebuilding, state housing and state infrastructure were provided at a massive scale. Meanwhile, technologies like air conditioning and the growth of commercial air travel mean that large cities can form in new places, hot and far from water.


This course is approved for 1 AICP CM credit.


This course is approved for 1 CNU-A credit.