New Paradigms of Urban Planning in Developing Countries and the Ford Foundation: The Case of the Special Programs in Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS) at MIT (1967-1976)

by Serge Ollivier

Oct 28, 2020

This report provides an overview of Ford Foundation (FF) support for the structuring of urban planning theories and methods, responding to the issues facing developing countries during the 1960s and 1970s. My research gathered much data on the FF's support for innovative urban planning and community management in developing countries from the 1950s to the 1990s. However, this report focuses specifically on the support of the Ford Foundation for the Special Program in Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), from its establishment in 1967 to the early 1980s. By the early 1980s, SPURS was a durable program which trained dozens of high-profile professionals coming mostly from developing countries. The view of the program provided by the reports and correspondence located at the Rockefeller Archive Center shows the Ford Foundation's contribution and influence in setting up an internationalized professional field for urban planning. The grant records are instrumental for comprehending how this program was both developing an international network of professionals and advocating for housing policies that related to the special needs of self-help squatters' owner-builders. Lastly, my report introduces a discussion regarding the influence of SPURS in the shift of urban planning doctrine for cities of the "Global South" and especially for slums management that was recognized at the first United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, held in Vancouver in 1976, more commonly known as Habitat I.

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