British architect John Turner, who called for human-centred housing policies, dies at 96
John F. C. Turner, a British architect and advocate for allowing people to manage their own dwellings, has died. He received the Right Livelihood Award in 1988. Turner passed away in his hometown of Hastings, England, on September 3, 2023, at the age of 96.
“John Turner showed that giving people the ‘freedom to build’ was the best way to ensure that they could live in houses and neighbourhoods that best fit their and their communities’ needs,” said Ole von Uexkull, Right Livelihood’s Executive Director. “He listened to the people rather than letting governments dictate housing projects. He was radically human-centred, believing in every person’s capacity and rights to make decisions about such fundamental issues as where and how they live.”
Turner was awarded by Right Livelihood “for championing the rights of people to build, manage and sustain their own shelter and communities.”
He developed the theory, practice and tools for self-managed home and neighbourhood building around the world, including in Peru, the United States and the United Kingdom.
A researcher and lecturer at MIT, Harvard University and University College London, Turner published several papers and books that had a major impact on housing policies around the world.
In 1989, Turner moved to Hastings, where he devoted himself to working as a Trustee of the Hastings Trust, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the town’s sustainable development.
This provided him with an opportunity to confront corporate urban-industrialism’s social and economic consequences on his own home ground. Convinced that a sustainable civilisation has to be founded on local economies, he concluded that a liveable future depends as much on regenerating the community base of the dominant industrial nations as on strengthening the surviving community-based initiatives of the exploited nations.
Receiving the Right Livelihood Award in 1988 meant that Turner could focus on developing his work, he said.
“It made me free to concentrate on my own priorities, so, in effect, it underwrote all the work I have done since, almost all of which has been voluntary,” he said.