Planetizen is running a poll to create a list of 100 Most Influential Urbanists. They last did this in 2017, when I was honored to be #57. They now have a new list of 200 nominees, partly based on public nominations, and want the public to rank them. I’m honored to be shortlisted again.
Personally, I’m not sure don’t how to vote in a survey that mixes figures from throughout (Western) history with people living today. That mixing feels unfair both ways. People who lived longer ago have had more time for their influence to be felt. On the other hand, the living tend to be strongly biased toward other living people. Do those two unfairnesses cancel each other out? Probably not, except maybe among historians. The bias toward the living is overwhelming. I’m not really the 57th most influential urbanist ever, because there have been countless influential people, in cultures all around the world, in all the millennia that there have been cities. So I’d have had an easier time figuring out my vote if I hadn’t had to choose between people I know well and people who lived 2500 years ago. It’s like being asked if I prefer apples or Shakespeare.
Note, too, that the survey is asking how influential people were, not whether that influence was good or bad. The list contains several people whose net impact on urbanism has been negative in my view, including Robert Moses, Le Corbusier, and Elon Musk. Will they be assessed purely on the magnitude of their influence and not its direction? Perhaps historians can be called upon for such godlike moral neutrality, but I find myself struggling to give such figures fairly high marks for “influence,” since I would be contributing to their influence by ranking them.
But methodologically questionable as they always are, people love lists. So whatever method you use to make these mysterious choices, I hope you have fun with it. Vote here.