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neighbourhood unit

  A relatively self-contained residential area. Most identified neighbourhood units are in planned residential developments, either suburban districts or New Towns and comparable settlements.

The neighbourhood unit concept, first used in Chicago in 1916 and formally enunciated by Clarence Perry in 1929, suggested the importance of scale in planning residential districts. Each new district should be of a sufficient size that it was socially self-contained for regular activities — such as daily and weekly shopping, the provision of primary schools and healthcare facilities, and so on — and thus would develop as an integrated community (or balanced neighbourhood). British garden cities were planned for units containing about 5000 persons each, and the pattern of roads and public transport was arranged to maximize the perceived gains from their separation, with the unit populations living within walking distance of all unit facilities and segregated from motorized traffic as far as possible.

The validity of the assumption that people wished to live in such bounded communities and would constrain their activities and spatial movements largely within them has led to criticisms of the concept, but much urban planning continues to promote such a cellular division of residential space. (RJJ)

Suggested Reading Hall, P.G. 1988: Cities of tomorrow: an intellectual history of urban planning and design in the twentieth century. Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell.



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