Consequences of overcrowding remembered in BBC Radio 3 programme

Jon Adams looks at the past views on shaping of the modern city – including the seductive idea that broken cities might be the cause of broken society. fix the city and you can fix the citizen.

  • Gillette's manifesto "The Human Drift"
  • Le Corbusier complaining that the haphazard democratic development of cities was leading to overcrowding - a menacing disaster since it is n longer governed by the principles of geometry (whatever the principles of geometry are and if there were any, would we want to be governed by them anyway)
  • Analogies to the hive – representing to the West efficiency, and to the communist East: collectivism.
  • John B Calhoun and the Rats of NIM -(National Institute of Mental Health) - an experiment involving placing colonies of rats in an environment where there every need is catered for with the exception of space. The finding was that the rat "society" became aggressive, dysfunctional, ultimately collapsing to the extent of that the colonies became extinct.

Programme can be heard until 12th July     Fast forward to 29.10


Density has been very much the flavour of the past decade. Most certainly, it increases the efficiency of land use, eases pressure to develop the countryside, and maximises opportunities for walking and cycling, but are there costs?  Have we lost sight of the true meaning sustainable development – “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." (Bruntland)

Read more about John B Calhoun..