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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An evaluation and analysis of the neighbourhood unit concept McConnell, Robert Shean

Abstract

The neighbourhood unit concept was developed by Clarence Perry in 1929, and the formula has since been used by planners in the designing of residential communities in many parts of the world. The concept was based on existing examples of successful planning and on sociological writings and precepts; and it became a new point of contact for the sociologist and the planner. After the last war the planners set to work with increased vigour, and model neighbourhoods were created in many countries. At the same time the concept began to be seriously criticised, and by 1950 it had been virtually discarded by the theorists - although new neighbourhoods were still being designed in accordance with the supposedly outmoded concept by practising planners. The purpose of this thesis is to evaluate the usefulness of the concept in relation to present-day needs and to analyse its components - all the time keeping in focus contemporary practice in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. The neighbourhood is examined in both its sociological and practical aspects, and the historical developments which contributed to the concept are traced. The sociological theme weaves together the people in their roles as neighbours and as members of the family life-cycle; and relates them to their homes and to the local facilities which they require for the attainment of good living, in both a psychological and a physical sense. The desirability of homogenous sociological units is discussed, and the problem of segregation is untangled from its implied association with the concept. The practical aspects are concerned with the provision of schools, churches, shops, open space and recreational needs and local employment possibilities. The neighbourhood is then related as a geographic unit to the greater urban mass, and its pattern analysed into its component parts. In the final synthesis this thesis is seen to be a defence of the concept; and the author believes that the neighbourhood unit concept has been wrongly condemned and that it is as valid today as it ever was.

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