In memoriam: John Friedmann, urban planning pioneer and honourary UBC professor, dies at 91


The UBC Faculty of Applied Science mourns the passing of John Friedmann, 91, an honourary professor in UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP).

Also a professor emeritus in the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he served as head of the Urban Planning Program in the university’s Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning for many years, Friedmann played a pivotal role in planning scholarship and education for over four decades.

“I consider John Friedmann [to be] the father of our urban planning department,” said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, associate dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, “a huge figure whose vision has guided our department’s structure, overall mission, and social justice goals.”

Born in Vienna in 1926, Friedmann left Europe for the United States at the age of 14. After earning a PhD in planning at the University of Chicago in 1955 and teaching stints at the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil (1956-58), MIT (1961-65) and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (1966-69), he joined UCLA in 1969 and remained there until his retirement in 1996.

“His work has challenged generations of planning scholars, educators, students, and practitioners to reveal their normative stance, rethink their explanations, create visions of good cities, and link knowledge to action for a more humane and just world,” wrote Mike Douglass, a professor at the National University of Singapore, in the Journal of Planning Education and Research last year.

Friedmann authored or co-edited more than 25 books and wrote over 150 chapters, articles and reviews on topics such as regional development planning, transactive planning, social learning and the world city hypothesis – work that has been cited over 50,000 times. His numerous recognitions include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Order of Bernardo O'Higgins (conferred by the President of Chile), the Distinguished Planning Educator Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning and the United Nations Human Settlements Lecture award.

Dubbing Friedmann “the epitomic progressive planner,” the United Nations stated that “[h]is ideas on regional development, world cities, participation and empowerment, and the importance of civil society in relation to planning and governance have been extremely important in the evolution of ideas on planning in both the developed and developing world.”

In addition to his honourary professorship at UBC, Friedmann held honourary positions at the University of Melbourne and the National University of Taiwan. He received honourary doctorates from Dortmund Technical University, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and York University and advised the governments of Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, Mozambique and China, where he was appointed Honorary Foreign Advisor to the China Academy of Planning and Urban Design.

John Friedmann is survived by his wife, Leonie Sandercock, a professor at SCARP; his daughter, Manuela Friedmann; and his brother, Martin Friedmann. The BC and UBC flags (at the North Plaza of the Old Student Union Building) will be lowered in Friedmann’s memory on June 14, 2017.