Last week, Planetizen released the results of a massive poll that sought to identify and rank the 100 top urban thinkers. The results of the survey, which invited submissions for one month over the summer, cross millenniums and disciplines, and seem to convey that big ideas are ultimately more influential than big buildings.
The list is fascinating and almost amusing for the juxtapositions it provides; Thomas Jefferson rubs shoulders with Carol Coletta and Congress for the New Urbanism co-founder Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk is right next to sprawl enabler Robert Moses. There are those that remade cities through massive masterplans, like Chicago’s Daniel Burnham and Paris’s Baron Haussmann, those who enhanced urban life through aesthetics, like Frederick Law Olmsted and those more theoretical in their approach, like Columbia sociology professor Saskia Sassen and the all-powerful, number one choice, Jane Jacobs. Vitruvius, born around 80 B.C., is noted for his feats of engineering at #79, and Henry Ford rounds out the list, even though his primary invention is now considered one of the foremost urban ailments. And Prince Charles of Wales, who has long expressed an interest in city planning and preservation, slipped in at #71.
It’s a great list that will provide a crash course in urban studies for anyone who cares to read it. Planetizen will continue to expand the biographis over the coming months; anyone outraged at the results will have the chance to make their feelings known next summer, when Planetizen runs the experiment again.