Peter Hall #3 remembered by Nick Jeffrey

This text arrived on 21 October 2014 from Nick Jeffrey who has agreed to it being posted here. Some observations from the celebration  of Peter Hall on 22 October are on Twitter at #peterhall

Peter Hall was a grand teacher.

I was one of the first dozen of Peter’s planning students and completed the MScEcon (Planning Studies) at LSE. I still teach there as an Associate, leading MSc Planning students, as well as first year Geography and Environment students on fieldwork across Docklands.

That initial course in Regional and Urban Planning Studies was pioneering both within planning education and within the LSE. It was taught jointly with the departments of Geography and Economics (Alan Day) and government (Peter Self). 1967/68 was the first and only full year Peter taught the course.  I understood that the initiative for the course came from Emrys Jones and he recruited Peter Hall to put it together and lead it.

Peter had invited me to meet him and show two projects I had been doing in the Southwark Planning Department with Steve Osgood and Alan Jessop. We had, with Steve Boddington, developed our own GIS programmes, printing socio-economic data by areas of Southwark all with overlays of IBM golf-ball type. We had produced an ‘Urban Structure Study’ with systems of flow charts linking policy, data, design, and decision. I had as well been the minority voice regarding the Aylesbury and done the Enquiry submissions on alternative bridges, and the future of the Station and south bank for the London Bridge Enquiry, and Peter wanted to know more of those issues.

One of the standard planning issues on Peter’s MSc course used for seminars was the question of a third London airport. Still a big issue and our debates then were right on the mark. I recall that the big proposal for debate was an airport on Foulness Sands in the Estuary, with all the transport links and regeneration of London’s eastern region. Consensus among us was if I recall, yes, do it. We did not consult the wildlife. I recall Erlet Savage and Roy Darke on the course and they went on to Reading and to Sheffield and Oxford.

With Peter’s support I went directly to a full time post as Lecturer in the Architectural Association School of Planning. Later I was joined by others such as James Anderson, Robin Thompson, and Irene Brueghel and Adah Kay and Rod Burgess and we established the first school of planning based in study of political economy and political sociology and rooted in community action planning. We had reorganized the Planning School with a basis in social sciences inspired by the LSE course, and that was unusual. Our early modelling courses were taught by Brian Mc Laughlin, and Marcial Echenique, with Susan Powell at LSE. Steve Boddington had as well joined our staff. With Susan and with Emrys Jones a number of our courses over the years were taught jointly with the LSE, and some of our AA graduates would go on to do PhDs at LSE.

From our origins the School was managed with a comprehensive participation of students, with influence on appointments and re-appointments to the one-year contracts all AA teaching staff worked to. Planning students gained an influential but specifically limited input to assessments, and this was maintained over many years, but became a focus of serious issues at a later juncture.

Peter Hall was an advocate for radical planning education and would take a stand.

In order to tell the importance of Peter’s support for our causes I offer a story of what we were up against.

Our courses were not RTPI-based, but community-action-based with a strong sub-regional Planning content. We depended on many visiting lectures from Ralph Miliband and John Westergaard, Robin Blackburn and Richard Kuper. Appears that the left crew who were made less welcome at the LSE after the 60s troubles turned up supporting our AA venture. Meghnad Desai lectured and was later an External Examiner. Michael Edwards from the Bartlett gave some lectures early on. Mike McKenna’s Philosophy courses underpinned our approaches. Doreen Massey lectured from early days. Doreen and Michael supported us throughout, later as examiners. Then with, Bob Sutcliffe and notably John Harrison, James and I established perhaps the only the pioneering and much mimicked course Political Economy of Urbanism, later ‘of Cities and Regions’. With an approach in historical materialism we began as did Peter Hall with Manchester in the industrial revolution, Corn Law and all, still relevant to today’s crises. David Harvey actually sat in on our course and then he, Henri Lefebvre, Manuel Castells, Edmund Preteceille, Ed Soja, David Yaffe, Hilary Rose, Marjorie Mayo, Liz Radford all lectured at some point as did squatters and trade union militants.  However we always maintained that these aforementioned radical approaches had origins in real people’s struggles and campaigns, wherever…  We also pioneered a course on Planning in Socialist Countries, and joined with LSE and SOAS on the first study tour of China. Peter had earlier supported me getting appointed to the part time editorial staff of Monica Pidgeon’s Architectural Design magazine and now he helped us get our China book published.

Our students led the way in community- and trade-union-based planning in this country, from Brixton and Notting Hill, and the Welsh mining valleys, to the Covent Garden campaigns, they were there, and we used these activities in teaching and learning. Adrian Atkinson joined us. Students were at the forefront of the first peoples’ campaigns on the future of Docklands and the Peoples’ Plan for the Royal Docks and along the South Bank. They produced the research and visions for the first big public meeting over the future of docklands, at Rotherhithe. They worked with the Joint Docklands Action Group and along the South Bank. Those projects culminated in Coin Street.

Their projects covered similar issues in Spain, Italy, and in Latin America and Africa. We had established a strong international development planning course with Dave Slater, Dave Wield, Debbie Bryceson, Maria Styllou, and later Richard Kirkby all on our staff.

The Planning School with Adrian Atkinson, led the way teaching planning with ecological principles in this country. The term ‘alternative technology’ was coined if I recall by Adrian in the AA Bar.

Our students gained top posts in London boroughs and in cities in Europe, Africa, and Latin America, as well as leading Architecture and Urban Design schools abroad, and of course careers in what might be labeled now ‘rebel architecture’.

GLC’s David Eversley had lectured for us early on and then later, in Ken Livingstone’s GLC regime, our staff were consultants to the London Green Strategy and with Robin Murray and Hilary Wainwright, to the London Industrial Strategy, Livingstone’s major London document.

First with Robin, then James, then alone I led the Planning School course for many years. Peter was one of our visiting lecturers and then one of our external examiners, and always a supporter thorough good times and bad times.

The AA was always a centre for crisis, [which[ some would say [was] part of its creativity.

Our first of the many AA crises was the mutual cancellation of the planned merger of the AA into Imperial College in 1970. The AA Development Planning Unit left to join UCL.  We had the opportunity to take our Planning School into Goldsmiths College, or into Reading University, with Peter urging us to do the latter. Together with our students we decided to make a go sticking at the AA and at that time still retained our SSRC grants. At that time we helped set up the AA Graduate School as a parallel body to the Planning School.

We continued to attract students with political commitments such as IS, IMG, CP, as well as anarchists such as Angry Brigade. These were top students and sensible students. At that point in the mid 70s I decided to leave the School and concentrate on writing, on The Open University, and to share caring for a young family.

During that period the students were infiltrated by some extreme left who wanted to complete the revolution within their own bubble. This caused a near terminal split among students and staff and the thesis assessment issue led to the loss of SSRC/ESRC? funding. I was asked by both sides to come back and arbitrate. I reached a verdict backed by the Planning school staff and students and the AA School to proceed as before. It has been suggested that the School had been infiltrated by agents posing as far left students and that they initiated the troubles to close the School. Emrys Jones and Peter Hall both suggested this, as did an eminent barrister. I was then asked to return to run the School, specifically to see it survive in the open market, competing with the planning courses that enjoyed government support on all fronts. I did so, and we gained foreign grants and some British Council sponsorships with Peter’s support, but could not regain SSRC/ESRC in an era of cuts. Peter again backed us on many fronts as we were in an open market  right up to the closure of the School a decade later by the AA Chairman (Principal) Alvin Boyarsky.

Boyarsky had been opposed to planning and indeed anything that smacked not just of socialism but also of social sciences. We returned one September to find that he had raided the AA Library in August, and removed all books referring to socialism, extending that to books with titles including sociology.  He had taken those books to sell to Dillons University Bookstore.  We recovered them, moved out of Bedford Square to Percy Street, and started our own department library.

Boyarsky had taken over the AA even marginalizing the AA Council, the governing body.

He had not been pleased with Planning Students winning the debates invited by his own urban design lectures.  However a bigger grudge with Planning lingered over from the organization of a trade union by the AA secretarial and administrative staff, joined by many academic staff as well and resulting in a strike over recognition. Planning staff were solid on that. (The union was ASTMS, and we were party to establishing the Bloomsbury Branch. AA teaching staff were not eligible for the university nor the polytechnic teaching unions. Teaching staff were all on one year contracts with no pensions.)

In the autumn of 1984 Boyarsky had slipped an unannounced item into ‘any other business’ at the end of an AA Council meeting. The timing was driven by leaving little time to stop his plans. He was strengthened and inspired by the emerging victories of Margaret Thatcher over the miners. He claimed that the Planning School was loosing money. Certainly times were much harder than in the public sector, which still had fairly low fees. We later learned that the excess increasing of graduate fees was a scheme by Boyarsky to drive the Planning School out, as he could not win any academic case. He made hidden transfers to other AA graduate courses. We learned this from the AA Secretary, the senior administrative officer of the AA. The AA Council knew nothing of this. We had argued for lower fees to secure more students as we had enough applications but were loosing them to the public sector. With Simos Yannis in the AA Graduate School Energy Programme I met with the CNAA towards gaining post-graduate degree accreditation. This was with Peter’s advice and support. We needed degrees for some foreign scholarships. The fact that the CNAA each time posed questions I could not answer and so put back to Boyarsky he saw as another threat to him. The specific questions were – what (for the whole of the AA) were the procedures for academic accountability and for financial accountability. He had abolished the committees for both of these issues, usurping all the power. Boyarsky had made a lot of enemies among AA members, and just as for Maggie later on, there were even letters from architects in the trade press calling for his assassination.

We fought Boyarsky with the full backing of Peter and many Bartlett and LSE colleagues and community groups, the RTPI and other institutes the GLC, and all AA past presidents.  The ILEA attempted to find a way to bring our school into their polytechnics, but it and the GLC were already on the verge of closure. The LSE considered ways to bring our school into LSE, and this placed on their agenda ideas for an architecture and urban design that many years later happened. I advised on that.

Walter Bor of University College led the external campaign with Peter’s support strong.  With the AA Vice President Martin Frischmann and the late AA Editor Dennis Sharpe and the support of all available Past –Presidents of the AA, a campaign was launched.  Walter Bor along with Peter Hall provided the energy and weight of the campaign.

An extraordinary Meeting of AA Members was called. (This I was told was the first ever under the AA Constitution, but there may have been a precedent in the 30s.) In April 1985 the AA was packed and we were able to present both an academic case and a financial case. I presented the financial case proving that with our cheaper Percy Street premises and no use of some other AA assets the Planning School was not losing any money. Each vote on the financial case, the academic case and on closure was won by overwhelming majorities, Nevertheless the Planning school was closed at the end of July. Peter helped some of our students find places to continue the second year of their studies. So did Emrys Jones at LSE.

Boyarsky died a couple of years after this and it appears that some of the approaches to studying and teaching urban issues that we had innovated were later taken up again in the AA Graduate School.

Peter Hall was a man to go down the pub with, to imagine with, and talk a lot of sense with.

We met up many years later after my school teaching and football coaching stint on the occasion of Ken Livingstone’s Commission for a New London Spatial Strategy, with Peter and Michael Edwards and a few others, and a few drinks. We were a minority voice urging more development at the periphery and less concentration in the middle of London. Nevertheless Ken was urging all of his new staff to read Peter’s books. I last joined with Peter as part of my OU work at the point he stood up in the face of the Thames Gateway gala plans and referred to the old question about the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’. He asked ‘Who is paying?’. The Audit Commission got to work and answered ‘no one’.

Peter had way read Rolling Stone and other such. We had a lot of good debate in The Three Tuns and the White Horse at LSE, and later with Cedric Price at the Marquis of Granby in Percy Street. I had later joined Peter briefly at UC Berkeley, as a visiting lecturer. He did like a night out and I recall in Berkeley and Oakland a Cuban club (el Che?)  and an Irish bar (The Tricolor ?).

The above is all from memories and is open to corrections with elaborations welcome. I was moved to write this up having received Michael Edwards’ memories. Then this summer I was asked by the Coin Street Community Builders to speak along with Bob Colenutt and Lois Acton at the meeting celebrating the life of Ted Bowman. Ted, a retired Fleet Street night printer, was the main and outstanding leader of working class community causes in London. Ted had been inspired by some of Peter’s writing and Ted worked to implement the vision from Blake of a ‘New Jerusalem’ along the south bank (nb no caps), a working class community, dense, vibrant, without the office towers which have marched in.

Nick Jeffrey

20th October 2014

(slight editorial clean-up, M.E. 26 October)

Author: Editors


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