“A biologist who turned later in life to city planning [Patrick] Geddes had begun a series of civic surveys and town revitalization projects in Edinburgh in the 1890s, publishing his results in a series of books and reports that fired young [Lewis] Mumford’s interest in the city. Mumford did not set out to be a city planner or an architect, however. His task, he decided after reading Geddes’ Cities in Evolution, would be ‘to enlarge the vision’ of those who did the actual planning and building.
Patrick Geddes taught Mumford a new way of looking at the cities, an approach based upon direct observation and a biologist’s sensitivity to organic relationships.”
—The Lewis Mumford Reader edited by Donald L. Miller
People have been looking at the environment, as environment, for only a very short time. It has always been there, but it has finally been recognized as something that is terribly responsive to acts of will and judgment that have an endless impact on the state of humanity. The way we live, or exist, is the generator of many of the problems called the urban crisis. How we live, or exist, is what urban design and planning are all about. Esthetics is not some kind of optional extra or paste-on for pretty facades; it is the satisfaction of the needs of the body, the spirit and the senses through the way an environment looks and functions–two inseparable factors. Every social plan has a form, good or bad. The art of design is an unavoidable part of part of every urban decision. Until this is understood as the planning process, and design is accepted as an inescapable determinant of the result, we will simply produce more environmental failures.