Geddes the Internationlist

As E.M. Forster said, “To sum up Patrick Geddes in a few lines would be impossible…” and at the end of his Old Town period he still had half his life to live. Now, imagine ascending Geddes’ Outlook Tower, looking out over Edinburgh, then letting your eyes drift out over the Forth to the hills and the world beyond, and imagine other cities with golden domes, temple roofs, interacting with this man under hotter suns. It was to be another fourteen years before Geddes went to India at the invitation of Lord Pentland, Governor of Madras. But it was mainly on account of his work in the Old Town that he was invited.

Other developments were further enhancing his reputation. In 1900 he held the International Assembly in Paris. That year and the following he made two visits to the USA. In 1903 he developed plans for Dunfermline and published City Development. In 1908 he restored Crosby Hall in Chelsea as a residence for university women. In 1909 Geddes assisted in the early planning of Edinburgh Zoo, giving the same consideration to animals’ needs as he did for humans in his city plans.

Image above: Valley Section window (detail), Patrick Geddes Centre

Geddes' Cities Exhibition

As a showcase for this thinking he developed his Cities Exhibition, which opened in Chelsea in 1910. He advocated ‘civic survey’ with the motto ‘diagnosis before treatment’, encouraging exploring the ‘whole set of existing conditions’ and referencing the needs of local people and their potentialities. He was also developing his regional planning model called ‘The Valley Section’ which illustrated the complex interactions between the environment and human systems.