Lloyd Rodwin, 80, MIT urban studies professor, extended the field of planning to social sciences and the Third World


BOSTON, Dec. 8--Lloyd Rodwin, 80, Ford International Professor Emeritus of Urban Studies at the Massachusetts Institute Technology and co-founder of the MIT-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies, died Tuesday, December 7, at the Massachusetts General Hospital of congestive heart failure.

Rodwin was a path-breaker in his field. A former president of the International Regional Science Association, and winner of the Distinguished Planning Educator Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, he began his career when the field was dominated by architects and emerged as one of the leaders of the urban planning profession, as it developed an intellectual base in the social sciences and humanities. Rodwin was renowned for his analyses of urban and regional problems in developing countries, which influenced development projects in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

MIT Professor Bernard Frieden, a student of Rodwin's and now associate dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, said, "Lloyd really changed the field from city planning to urban studies. He emphasized research on how cities work and worked with people outside of planning like Pat Moynihan (Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan), James Q. Wilson, Oscar Handlin, Alan Altshuler and Martin Meyerson. Lloyd made the field much broader, and extended it to the Third World."

Born in September 14, 1919 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the son of an immigrant baker from Poland, Rodwin dedicated himself to improving life for the underprivileged. He attended City College (CCNY), in Manhattan, where he studied with and was deeply influenced by philosopher Morris Raphael Cohen. At CCNY, he was also inspired by the writings of philosopher, George Santayana, and Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes.

He wanted to be a high school teacher, but he failed the civil service exam by following the style of his favorite author, Laurence Stern, using dashes rather than periods. He was therefore disqualified, even though he otherwise received the highest possible grade. Not sure what to do, he signed up for a ten dollar course on housing, with Charles Abrams, a noted urbanist and New York Commissioner on Housing, at the New School for Social Research. He became Abrams' research assistant.

Later he worked in the U.S. Defense Housing Program in Washington, D.C. There he met his future wife, Nadine Posniak, a recent Jewish refugee from France who escaped in June of 1940 by way of Portugal and whose parents were, themselves, Russian �migr�s from the 1917 revolution. She introduced him to a world of European culture and ideas. She accepted his marriage proposal, but only on a five year trial basis. They renewed the five year contract 10 times after the first trial proved successful.

His work in Washington D.C. was interrupted when he was drafted to the U.S. Armed Forces. He completed basic training (as well as training in finance) when he was told he would be discharged because of poor eye-sight. Rather than stay until the next morning and receive his winter military coat, he took the first bus to Madison, Wisconsin to be with his future wife who was then a graduate student in labor economics at the University of Wisconsin. There Rodwin earned his M.A. in land economics. Soon thereafter he became a Littauer fellow at Harvard University and completed his Ph.D. there in regional planning, in 1949.

Rodwin's first book, British New Towns Policy (1956), criticized the utopian traditions of Ebenezer Howard's "Garden Cities" and his American followers, Lewis Mumford and Catherine Bauer Wurster. However, this did not preclude him from organizing one of the most extensive efforts to design a new city -- Ciudad Guayana -- at the confluence of the Orinoco and Careen Rivers in southeastern Venezuela. Rodwin led an interdisciplinary team from the MIT-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies, which he co-founded with Martin Meyerson in 1959. The combined efforts of economists, anthropologists, sociologists, and other social scientists, as well as land-use planners, became a model for a new kind of integrated planning. Following his book on this project, Planning Urban Growth and Regional Development (MIT Press, 1969), his colleagues published seven others that analyzed the Ciudad Guayana Project from diverse disciplinary perspectives.

The Joint Center was a main source of scholarly literature on urban studies in the 1960s and 1970s, publishing books from the MIT and Harvard University Presses. Rodwin served as chairman of the Joint Center's policy committee from 1959 to 1969. He also founded, and directed from 1967-1989, the Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS), a program that has brought over 400 mid-career professionals to MIT from developing nations on four continents. He took the lead, along with Melvin King, in establishing the MIT Community Fellows Program for black and other minority community leaders to study at MIT. This program aimed to provide grassroots community leaders with the opportunity to learn new skills at DUSP and the rest of MIT.

Rodwin's view that social science should complement physical planning helped to change planning education in the United States. While he was chair of the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) from 1969-1973, Rodwin oversaw a tripling of the faculty. He transformed the DUSP by introducing new social science faculty and course work (including history, economics, sociology, anthropology) as well as a focus on international comparative studies, housing policy, environmental policy and economic development. The MIT Program served as a model for other programs in the United States and around the world.

His experience as an adviser to the United Nations and other international organizations, as well as to the governments of Venezuela, Turkey and other developing nations, led Rodwin to write Nations and Cities -- a comparative study of the role of government in devising and implementing urban and regional growth strategies.

Rodwin was the author or editor of 11 books, including a forthcoming edited volume (with Bishwapriya Sanyal), The Profession of City Planning: Changes, Images and Challenges, 1950-2000. His research and scholarship have contributed to many aspects of the planning field: studies on the future of the metropolis; essays on images and themes of the city in the social sciences (Cities of the Mind, Plenum, 1984, with Robert Hollister); research on the relation between national policies and urban growth, shelter and development, industrial change and regional economic transformation; and analyses on the experience of development -- Rethinking the Development Experience: Essays Provoked by the Work of Albert Hirschman (edited with Don Schon, Brookings, 1994).

As a teacher, Rodwin trained generations of planners around the world. He was known for his use of socratic questioning, a technique he drew from his studies in philosophy and applied to the study of complex and controversial issues in planning. In the classroom, Rodwin would typically get students to state their position and ask a few disarmingly simple questions which usually resulted in students changing their views. When asked what they learned years later, students often said, "He taught us how to think!" His former students have assumed significant leadership and teaching positions throughout the world and extended and deepened his influence.

In addition to his wife, Nadine Posniak Rodwin of Cambridge, Mass., Professor Rodwin is survived by his two sons, Professor Victor George Rodwin of New York University, and Professor Marc Andre Rodwin of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana; his daughter, Julie Anne Rodwin, a consultant in Groton, Massachusetts; his brother Ted Rosenbaum and sister Claire Levy of Laguna Hills, California, and six grandchildren.


Topics: Obituaries

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