Urban Nation

eBook - April 2010 - eRetailers

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Provides the first national survey of the historical impact of urban planning and design on the Australian landscape.

Urban Nation: Australia's Planning Heritage provides the first national survey of the historical impact of urban planning and design on the Australian landscape. This ambitious account looks at every state and territory from the earliest days of European settlement to the present day. It identifies and documents hundreds of places - parks, public spaces, redeveloped precincts, neighbourhoods, suburbs up to whole towns - that contribute to the distinctive character of urban and suburban Australia. It sets these significant planned landscapes within the broader context of both international design trends and Australian efforts at nation and city building.


No longer available in a print edition.


"It is difficult to find many shortcomings in this work by Robert Freestone. It is written in a non-technical style, and is richly illustrated primarily in colour illustrations, many of which bring home the utopian beginnings of modern Australian urban planning ...for those with an interest and passion for understanding Australian urban planning in practice and its history this book is an essential acquisition as a general reader or academic text."
Paul Jones, Australian Geographer, Vol 43 (1), pp. 97 - 99, March 2012

"It is almost impossible to give a coherent summary of the coverage, except to say that it is meticulous, detailed and exceptionally well researched. It includes relevant ideas as well as references to the people and organisations behind these ideas. The book will serve two main purposes. It is an excellent resource for planning educators and students because of its wide national coverage and its careful detailing of the development of Australian planning in each of the themed chapters... It gives a fascinating insight into our planning history and is a marvellous starting point for many more detailed journeys."
John Minnery, Australian Planner, Vol. 48, No. 4, December 2011

"This is a comprehensive and detailed study, plainly putting paid to any idea that a ‘young’ country like Australia does not have much planning history… It is an excellent collection of detailed and beautifully illustrated material demonstrating the importance of examining and publicly acknowledging positive outcomes of state-initiated planning. In so doing, it also provides a splendid resource for further comparative historical and international planning research."
Margo Huxley, International Planning Studies, 16:4, 426-428 November 2011

"...transcends the usually disjunctive approach of state-based histories to produce a comprehensive and well-written account of Australia’s planning history... an invaluable addition to Australia’s planning and heritage literature and will find wide use by readers from undergraduate students to those looking for comparative material or a starting point for their own research... its coverage and focus is unique which combined with the quality of its scholarship must make it a landmark book in Australia’s planning history literature."
Caroline Miller, Urban Policy and Research, Volume 29(2), May 2011, pp.216-218

"...this book is a masterly work of synthesis that will be invaluable as a general reference for many years to come. One can easily imagine Urban Nation becoming a foundational text in the syllabuses of university planning courses across the country. It is, moreover, written in a style that is as accessible to the general reading public as it is to a specialist audience. Urban Nation represents an invaluable contribution to our collective understandings of the history of planning in Australia. Its publication will undoubtedly have a ripple effect, not just upon the landscape of heritage, but also on broader debates about the nature of settlement in Australia.
Stephen Pascoe, History Australia, Vol 8 No 1

"This book is a must for town planners, or for historians interested in how our cities and towns have developed since the settlement of Australia...this book is beautifully written, extensively researched, and comprehensively illustrated, it concentrates solely on planning in Australia."
Eve Gibson, Journal of Northern Territory History, Issue 22 2011

"...highly detailed, comprehensive and finely crafted book...a gallery of wonderful illustrations, and many well-chosen quotes from the people behind the plans, as well as their critics...Freestone's historical investigations, his relentless search for traces of planning in an anti-planning environment, are very helpful in renewing our reflection on what planning is, what it can be and how it emerges out of local context and international networks. Hopefully, his readers pick up the message that planning can be more than development restrictions, that planning can be a powerful tool to create spatial quality, to protect property values and, not to forget, to forge local and national identities."
Kristof Van Assche, Planning Perspectives, Vol. 25, No. 4, October 2010

“Freestone's canvass of more than two centuries of Australian urban output is a feat nothing short of magisterial in itself. Ultimately, Urban Nation is a monumental step toward rectifying, in Freestone's words, the "skew towards architecture" within "formal recognition of Australia's built heritage.”
Christopher Vernon, Landscape Architecture Australia, November 2010

"The dreams and achievements of Australia's town planners are celebrated in Robert Freestone's handsomely illustrated book..."
Peter Spearritt, http://inside.org.au/, 7 October 2010

"Here at last is an authoritative, single-volume history of Australian planning, compact and well Illustrated."
Australian Garden History, Vol22, No 2, October-December 2010

"A very substantial survey of Australia’s planning heritage by the doyen of Australian planning historians."
History News – Royal Historical Society Victoria, June-July 2010

"This is an excellent book in its structure and stunningly comprehensive coverage, its compaction of the material presented, its rich array of diagrams, plans, sketches and photographs and its accessible and engaging writing style. The abundance of images drawn from historical to present day sources is a delight…The author’s writing style is graceful, absorbing and information-packed, and perfectly matched to the ‘time poor’ reader. The only lingering regret was that this book was not published 20 years ago to become an acknowledged resource and reference text, which it is sure to now become. Five Stars."
Pem Gerner, Cityscape Creative Cities, Vol 41, Page 11, June 2010


ePDF | April 2010
ISBN: 9780643100138
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Available from eRetailers


  • Provides an unprecedented national historical review of urban planning in Australia
  • It makes a strong case for the potential heritage value of diverse planned environments from local neighbourhood features through regional parks and plans to whole suburbs and towns
  • Extensive bibliography


1. A National Narrative
2. Imagining Ideal Places
3. Founding the Capital Cities
4. A Nation of Planned Towns
5. Metropolitan Strategies
6. Suburban Dreams
7. Renewing Cities
8. Parks, Precincts and the Public Realm


Robert Freestone is Professor of Planning and Urban Development at the University of New South Wales. His research interests are in planning history and metropolitan restructuring. He is a Fellow of both the Planning Institute of Australia and the Australian Academy of Social Sciences. His other books include Designing Australia’s Cities: Culture, Commerce and the City Beautiful 1900–1930 (2007) and Model Communities: The Garden City Movement in Australia (1989).