University opens exhibition celebrating 100 years of town planning education

An exhibition celebrating 100 years of town planning education in Liverpool will open at the University’s Victoria Gallery & Museum (VG&M).

The exhibition, “Making Plans: 100 years of Civic Design”, charts the origins, history and impact of the Department of Civic Design at the University of Liverpool, which was the world’s first department for the study of town planning. The exhibition comprises historic materials including portraits, photographs, maps and plans of notable developments in Liverpool, London and other parts of the country.

The Department of Civic Design was established through a generous donation to the University in 1908 by the industrialist William Hesketh Lever, founder of Lever Brothers, now known as Unilever.  Lever had fought and won a significant libel action against several newspapers in 1907 over a soap dispute.  The damages he was awarded – the highest of any court case at that time – were given to the University and used to establish the department, the Lever Chair and the Town Planning Review, the first international journal on the subject. 

During its 100 years, the department has contributed to numerous regional, national and international planning projects including the County of London Plan for post-war London prepared by Sir Patrick Abercrombie, widely regarded as the leading British planner of the 20th Century and the plan for the post-war new town, Stevenage, by Gordon Stephenson.  More recently the Department was responsible for the strategic plan for the Mersey Estuary and the current Lever Professor, Peter Batey, now leads the Mersey Basin Campaign, a 25-year programme to clean up and regenerate the Mersey river basin.

“This exhibition shows what a remarkable effect Lever’s gift to the University has had over the last 100 years. The Department of Civic Design – through its graduates, its publications, and its plans – has had a huge influence on town planning throughout the world.”

From its outset the department offered Certificate and Diploma courses in town planning enabling surveyors, municipal engineers and architects to acquire formal education in planning.  After the Second World War the ensuing reconstruction activity, the programme of new towns and the new Planning Act meant there was a huge demand for professional planners. 
In 1950, a Master of Civic Design degree was introduced marking the start of postgraduate planning education in Britain.

The department has produced high calibre graduates who have played a role in professional practice all over the world including Chen Zhanxiang, who had a distinguished career as a planner in Shanghai and Beijing, and Ong Teng Cheong a planner who went on to become Singapore’s first elected President in 1993.

The exhibition, “Making Plans: 100 years of Civic Design” opens to the public from Friday, 3rd July to Saturday, 28th November

Admission to all galleries and exhibitions is free and the building is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm.  The Waterhouse Café is also open during these times.

Media are invited to speak to Professor Peter Batey, the current Lever Professor of Town Planning in the Department of Civic Design about the exhibition on Friday, 3 July at 3.30pm.

Please contact Samantha Martin on the number below if you plan to attend.

Notes to editors:

1.  The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £93 million annually.

2.  The Department of Civic Design continues to be at the forefront of planning education and research and from 2009 onwards, an innovative undergraduate degree in city development will be taught jointly in Liverpool and China.


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