U.S. Foundations, Urban Design, and International Development since 1945

by Tracy Neumann

Sep 21, 2017

This report focuses on research I conducted at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in March 2017 in support of my current book project, The Urban International: Design and Development from the Marshall Plan to Microfinance. The Urban International is a political, cultural, and intellectual history of the global dissemination of urban design and international development concepts since 1945, with a focus on the role of philanthropic foundations, universities, and international organizations. After World War II, cities around the world were physically transformed by economic concepts and design principles pioneered in the United States and Western Europe. Brasília, Brazil's modernist capital, and Chandigarh, India's first post-independence planned city, are well-known examples of European design concepts transferred to the global South by a transnational class of architects and planners. Most such undertakings, however, were of a more modest scale and often financed by philanthropic and international organizations. By investigating a range of programs sponsored by organizations including the UN, UNESCO, the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, The Urban International reconstructs how ideas about the design and management of North Atlantic cities influenced, and were influenced by, development projects in the global South. The study asks how urban planners, architects, consultants, academics, public officials, and grassroots activists circulated ideas about how cities should look, who counted as urban citizens, and who should have access to public space and public resources. Those guiding questions are situated in an examination of the shift from modernization projects to neoliberal development in cities around the world between 1945 and the present. The same people and organizations directed and funded development projects in the global South and urban revitalization projects in North Atlantic cities, and this project aims to demonstrate that their work was one conduit through which neoliberal ideas moved between cities around the world.

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