George Frantz: Rethinking the Superblock: New York and Shanghai

Park in Shanghai

A park in Shanghai. photo / provided

George Frantz has taught planning field workshop courses in communities ranging from the Ninth Ward of New Orleans to Catskill Mountain resort towns. He has an active private practice in land use planning and design. His primary areas of expertise are in urban design and comprehensive land use planning and zoning, with particular emphasis on addressing the needs of agriculture and the protection of environmentally sensitive lands. His current research interests include Chinese and American cities and their potential to evolve into more environmentally and socially sustainable communities. He has also studied the impacts of Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling on agricultural land resources in northern Pennsylvania. Frantz received his B.S. in landscape architecture and his M.R.P. from Cornell in 1980 and 1991 respectively.


In the 1930s and 1940s planners in Shanghai and New York City embraced the Garden City principles espoused by Ebenezer Howard and others in their design of new neighborhoods. In both cities planners also embraced the "superblock" urban form, although in Shanghai as an extension of centuries of urban planning practice, and in New York City as an anomaly within the historic grid. This paper investigates three neighborhoods and compares them in terms of form, density, walkability, and other qualitative metrics. It concludes that the superblock as an urban form can be a means of creating more livable and sustainable cities.

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