Thomas Sharp was a key figure in town planning in the mid-twentieth century. The concepts he developed in his writings and plans have been of enduring significance and influence on thinking about planning and design for both practitioners and academics in the UK and beyond. He was a major influence on the development of ideas of townscape and the significance of his thinking on historic cities stands comparison with, for example, Camillo Sitte.
The mid-twentieth century was a period when public and professional interest in planning was at an all-time high. Sharp was a key figure in defining thinking about the forms that town and countryside should take; in reconciling existing and valued character with modernity, and; in making these arguments accessible. His book Town Planning (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1940) is the most widely-read ever on the subject and followed earlier influential polemical works. The plans he produced in the 1940s, primarily for historic cities such as Oxford, Exeter and Durham, were also hugely influential and are significant aesthetic artefacts in the history of plan-making, all the more remarkable for being produced in a period of austerity.
Interest in Sharp and his ideas has grown markedly in recent years with, for example, the rise of 'New Urbanism' in the USA and of the significance of design issues in UK planning. Furthermore, there is a new-wave of scholarly interest in the post-war reconstruction planning and architecture of the mid-twentieth century as a distinctive period in planning and design, particularly focused around reconstruction plans and their partial implementation.
From the guide to the Thomas Sharp papers, 1932-1984, (Newcastle University)