In 1969, Cedric Price with Paul Barker (writer), Reyner Banham (architecture historian) and Peter Hall (geographer and planner) published ‘Non-Plan: an experiment in freedom’ an article in a social affairs magazine titled New Society. The idea emerged after a conversation about the appalling results of current urban planning strategies and it get any worse if there was no planning at all. At the time, Non-Plan infuriated many architects and planners because not only was it extremely provocative and contentious but it also went against the established order and controlled uniformity of the built environment.
Cedric Price saw the city not as a cohesive structure but instead as an unstable series of systems, in continual transformation, constantly reorganizing and rearranging itself through processes of both expansion and retraction. Price supported the idea of the “anticipatory architect” in which the general public could determine, control and shape their own surroundings.
The major premise behind Non-Plan was when ‘professionals’ were designing communities they should think before telling other people how they should live because everyone had their own preferences and ideas. Non-Plan explored ways of involving people in the design of their environments by circumventing planning bureaucracy and letting the people shape the environment they want to live and work in.
I am not too sure how serious Non-Plan was in its implementation but as a proposition it initiated an opposing dialogue that is still current today. Interestingly, Paul Barker wrote in September 2003, a month after Cedric Price passed away, that London in the 1970’s benefited from the ideas of Non-Plan in solving what to do with urban negligence. Without Non-Plan’s notion of a control-free zone, the London Docklands couldn’t have been transformed into the Canary Wharf.
I have been intrigued with the notion of Non-Plan but unsure of how it might have looked. One example of a self-organizing community that comes to mind are the favelas in Brazil particularly in Rio de Janeiro. Most of the favelas began in the 1970’s because of a housing crisis which forced the poor to erect shantytowns beyond the urban borders of Rio. While the favela is the result of unequal wealth distribution I have been fascinated with the non-plan development in the favela. In the favelas, the inhabitants participate in the construction of their own self-built house and the installation of services, such as water, sewage, and electricity.