John F. C. Turner, British architect, Died at 96


John F. C. Turner (1927–2023): Pioneering Architect and Housing Theorist

John Francis Charlewood Turner, known for his groundbreaking work in informal self-help housing and neighborhood building, was a distinguished British architect and theorist. Born on July 9, 1927, in Kensington, London, he left an indelible mark on housing and urban development in Peru, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Early Life and Influences Turner was raised in Kent, England, in a middle-class Jewish family with artistic roots; his maternal grandparents were noted artists Georgie and Arthur Gaskin. From an early age, he showed an inclination towards music and composition. His educational journey took him to the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1944, where he encountered influential figures like Patrick Geddes and Lewis Mumford through his lecturer Jaqueline Tyrwhitt. These encounters profoundly influenced his career and ideology, aligning with Geddes’ ideas and the principles of anarchism.

Career Highlights

  1. Peru (1957–1965): Turner’s career took off when he worked in Peru from 1957 to 1965, significantly contributing to solving housing issues in rapidly growing cities. He implemented groundbreaking policies that granted settlers rights, provided basic services, and technical assistance, setting a precedent for self-help urban assistance.
  2. United States (1965–1973): Moving to the USA, Turner joined the Harvard–MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies and later lectured at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Here, he authored influential works, including “Freedom to Build: Dweller Control of the Housing Process” (1972), challenging authoritarian approaches to housing problems.
  3. United Kingdom (1973 onwards): Returning to London, Turner continued to influence the realm of housing through teaching and publications. His book “Housing By People: Towards Autonomy in Building Environments” (1976) presented alternative housing models, advocating for autonomy in housing design and construction.

Legacy and Awards John F. C. Turner was recognized for his exceptional contributions. He was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1988 for advocating people’s rights to build, manage, and sustain their own shelter and communities. In 1992, he received the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour Award, further acknowledging his lasting impact on the field of housing.

John F. C. Turner’s insightful approach to housing and urban development has left a lasting legacy, influencing policies and empowering communities to shape their living environments. He passed away on September 3, 2023, in Hastings, England, at the age of 96, leaving behind a wealth of knowledge and inspiration for future generations.