The Bartlett School of Planning


Lesley D. Slavitt

Research subject

Thesis title: Pioneering Practice: The Disrupted Metropolis and the Emergence of City Planning in the Early Twentieth Century

Primary supervisor: Professor Matthew Carmona
Secondary supervisor: Dr Elisabete Cidre
Starting date: October 2018
Completion date: September 2020
Email: ucbqsla@ucl.ac.uk

This work assesses the evolution and formative influences on the development of city planning in the early decades of the twentieth century and seeks to inform twenty-first century opportunities. The research uses the career of pioneering American practitioner George B. Ford as a lens through which to explore the professionalization of planning from 1909 to 1931. In particular, it investigates the role of the Great War in the field’s development across two continents as well as transitions into the public domain and the role of civic service and nongovernmental organizations in support of its formation. The narrative also addresses the evolution of planning within the context of unregulated and chaotic urban change more broadly, including the devastation of natural disaster, and interprets the relationship between the urban core and an expanding turn toward the metropolitan region. As the identification of the “expertise” of the planner evolved, a disciplinary neutrality of the practitioner helped to establish the planner’s unique identity while wartime physical disruption could evoke an expertise more idealized in its formation. Ford was distinctive for his involvement in some of the field’s most relevant early milestones, including his transnational engagement in France and work on the post-war plan for Reims, which was one of the largest and most historic cities devastated as a result of the war and the first such plan approved under French law. In addition, Ford was involved in the pre-war era of plan design in America, New York’s 1916 Zoning Resolution, the pioneering official adoption of a comprehensive plan at Cincinnati (1925), and the Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs.


Lesley Slavitt most recently served as chief executive officer of the Fiat Chrysler Foundation and also oversaw civic engagement for FCA US LLC. Prior she was head of communications, civic affairs and government relations at Roosevelt University and, previously, was a vice president of corporate philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase where she had also had lead operations. Earlier in her career she authored a war crimes tribunal report on the destruction of cultural property in the former Yugoslavia for the U.N. Commission of Experts. She received her B.A. in Art History from the University of Michigan and an M.S. in Urban Planning and an M.S. in Historic Preservation, both from Columbia University in the City of New York. For her graduate thesis she was awarded the American Planning History Research Prize. She serves on the board of directors for the Open Doors Organization and the Urban Renaissance Center.


“Reconstruction, Meaning and Memory,” Relevance, Vol. 12, Nu. 3 (Summer), 2003, pp. 11-12.

“Cultural Heritage at War,” Public Culture, Vol. X, Nu. 1 (Fall), 1997, pp. 209-210.

“Armenia after the Earthquake and Post-Communism,” Interplan, Nu. 52 (Dec.), 1995, p. 5.

“The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in the Former Yugoslavia,” US/ICOMOS, Nu. 7/8 1994, p. 1.

Report on the Destruction of Cultural Heritage, Property and Structures as a Result of War in Croatia and Bosnia- Herzegovina, 1992-1994. Chicago: IHRLI, 1994.

Preserving and Revitalizing Older Communities: Sources of Federal Assistance. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993.


School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1995-1996. Adjunct Faculty, Historic Preservation.

Columbia University, 1993-1994. Teaching Assistant, Historic Preservation Department.