Perth, Australia


Paul Ritter

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Paul Ritter



Prague, Czech Republic



Perth, Western Australia




University of Liverpool


Architect, writer, city planner

Notable work(s)

Planning for Man and Motor


Jean Ritter

Paul Ritter, 1964 Nottingham (aged 39)

Ore Obelisk (1971-72) in Stirling Gardens with Council House behind. Designed by Ritter and Ralph Hibble.

Paul Ritter (6 April 1925, Prague – 14 June 2010, Perth) was a Western Australian architect, town planner, sociologist, artist and author. In his roles as the first city planner of the state's capital, Perth and subsequent two decades spent serving as Councillor for East Perth, Ritter is remembered as a brilliant, eccentric and often controversial public figure who consistently fought to preserve and enhance the character and vitality of the central city district. Today he is primarily remembered for his involvement in preserving many of Perth's historic buildings at a time of rapid redevelopment [1] and preventing the construction of an eight-lane freeway on the Swan River foreshore.[2] Ritter's later career was blighted by a controversial 3-year prison sentence for making misleading statements in applying for export marketing grants.


  1. 11 Early years

  2. 22 Career in Western Australia

    1. 12.1 Chief planner at the City of Perth

    2. 22.2 Councillor

    3. 32.3 Architect, consultant and ministerial adviser

  3. 33 Imprisonment

  4. 44 Philosophies and ideas

    1. 14.1 Jane Jacobs

  5. 55 Awards

  6. 66 Memberships

  7. 77 Bibliography

  8. 88 Other work

  9. 99 References

  10. 1010 Further reading

Early years

Ritter was born in Prague on 6 April 1925 to Jewish parents Carl Ritter and Elsa (née Schnabel).[3] In 1939, at the age of 13, Ritter was evacuated from Czechoslovakia to England via the Kindertransport. He graduated as a Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Civic Design from the University of Liverpool. In 1946 he married fellow-graduate Jean Patricia Finch with whom he eventually had five daughters and two sons.[4]

From 1954 to 1964 Paul and Jean Ritter ran the Ritter Press in Nottingham, where Paul taught at the School of Architecture from 1952 to 1964, when the School moved to the University, and a new professor was appointed. Ritter Press mainly published the journal Orgonomic Functionalism, devoted to the work of Wilhelm Reich, which appeared in 38 issues in 10 volumes. Paul Ritter was the editor and main contributor. Reich did not accept him as his follower, and wrote in a letter to A. S. Neill: "He claims now to establish the TRUE Functionalism. I am a kind of precursor. He is ending in utter confusion."[5] After Reich's death in 1957 Ritter edited a Reich Memorial Volume with contributions by the Ritters, Neill, Nic Waal, and the later Reich biographer Myron Sharaf.

Throughout their life the couple would combine their talents, shared interests and idealism in an enduring professional partnership which they named 'The Planned Environment and Educreation Research (PEER) Institute'.[6] Together they wrote and published their first book in 1959 entitled, 'The Free Family', describing how they applied their beliefs about child rearing to their own children.

Career in Western Australia

Chief planner at the City of Perth

In the early 1960s Ritter was teaching at the Nottingham School of Architecture while acquiring an international reputation as an architectural theorist with new ideas and unquenchable energy.[7] His 1964 book, Planning for Man and Motor contained his theories and advocacy for the separation of pedestrians and cars and brought him to the attention of the global planning profession. Mr W. A. McI. Green, Town Clerk of Perth City Council (PCC), invited Ritter to head the council's newly formed Department of Planning.[8] Ritter accepted, and after migrating with his family to Perth in late 1964, began work as Perth's first City Planner in May of the following year.[9]

He arrived at a transitional time in the history of Perth. McI. Green had been what Ritter later described as one of those "rare breed of dictators whom power does not corrupt", and whose professional qualifications in architecture and town planning had adduced idealism and leadership that he felt was "totally out of kilter" with the era that followed. Retiring in 1965, Green was unable to have his preferred candidate appointed City CEO, and his replacement, G. O. Edwards, was a man whom Ritter felt was inadequate, and lacking the "enthusiasm, dedication and force of personality that Mc I. Green had provided in keeping council and councillors in order and staff loyal and committed."[10]

Ritter’s tenure as chief planner was short and turbulent and in 1967 he was controversially sacked. Ostensibly Ritter was accused by the City Council of failing to produce the statutory planning scheme that was required by the Metropolitan Region Planning Authority (MRPA). The MRPA had been formed in 1963 to convert the Stephenson-Hepburn Plan for the Metropolitan Region into a statutory scheme for the whole of Perth. The relationship between the MRPA's Chief Planner, David Carr and Paul Ritter soon began to deteriorate. Perth historian Jenny Gregory believes the falling out was due to the state government's (and Carr's) view that the role of the PCC was to fill in the details of the overarching metropolitan scheme. Ritter himself insisted that, despite some personal animosity, "the one and only major contention" between the two was regarding the Government Freeway Plan, which Carr backed and Ritter vigorously opposed. Despite substantial differences that resulted in his dismissal shortly afterwards, Ritter convinced the council to reverse an earlier resolution supporting the proposal and instead to oppose it. This is now considered Ritter's greatest legacy, for the plan would have run a freeway down the Swan River foreshore to surround the city with what architect Theodore Osmundson described as an "iron collar [which] can only eventually choke the central city to death".[11] Ritter successfully argued that a freeway along the foreshore would cut the city off from the waterfront and was unnecessary in terms of traffic volumes, and that the proposed northern freeway leg would be sufficient to carry commuter traffic.[11] Ritter claimed that this challenge to Carr's authority was not lightly forgiven, but in spite of this the two individuals "cooperated on virtually all other issues".

To some he was a maverick planner, a progressive modernist whose radical ideas took Perth by storm.[12] Yet Ritter saw himself as a counter to the decisive and destructive influence of economic rationalism on the planning and growth of the city at the time.

Ritter's ideas and achievements left a profound and enduring legacy. He was responsible for 'a far sighted parking plan’ and multilevel structure that took advantage of the central city topography to lay the foundations for a vibrant pedestrian precinct with walkways linking the Northbridge cultural centre via arcades to St Georges Terrace.[13] He worked to preserve many historic buildings through a variety of means, including the alteration of plot-ratio requirements,[14] was partially successful in limiting reflective glass on skyscraper facades and participated in the successful campaign to save the Barracks Arch from demolition. He held frequent public meetings to persuade people of his ideas and drew up a town-planning scheme for Perth.

Following his sacking in 1967 a committee comprising Sir Walter Murdoch, Mary Durack Miller, Stella O'Keefe, Professor E. K. Braybrooke, Professor G. C. Bolton, Thomas Wardle and Dr. R. B. Lefroy was formed to inquire into the dismissal. He later successfully sued for wrongful dismissal.[15]


With his public profile bolstered by his dismissal, five months later Ritter was able to return to the City of Perth as a councillor for the East Ward. From 1968 to 1986 he would become a prominent figure during the decline and subsequent transition of East Perth. As a councillor he showed concern for the amenity of East Perth, encouraging improvements to programs of street-sweeping and rubbish-removal, and seeking to involve the community in the decision-making process. As a member of the city's town planning committee he sought to hasten the construction of the city by-pass to overcome the deterioration of buildings in the freeway reserve and the exodus of business and residents. Ritter continued to self-publish newsletters and pamphlets outlining his ideas. "For too long", he wrote in one, "planning East Perth was delayed because of Railway and Freeway uncertainties. Now that these have been overcome and we are pressing for special efforts to give the sort of attention that has been lavished on West Perth to East Perth planning".[16]

Architect, consultant and ministerial adviser[edit]

In 1970 Paul Ritter was involved in the design of the Crestwood Estate in Thornlie, Western Australia.[17] To this he introduced Radburn principles. Every house sits on the edge of a park, and movement on foot through the development is possible without encountering vehicles. In 1971 he was appointed by the state Minister for Town Planning (H. E. Graham) to report[18] on the MRPA proposals for the Corridor Plan for Perth; however his report had little impact.[19] He spent 36 years as a ministerial adviser. He was a member of the Committee for a Vision of Perth in 2029 .[20] He also produced the "1999 Ideas Plan" for the City of Perth, was involved with the "Perth in 2029" report and created a series of 13 half-hour Channel 31 TV programs about the report, entitled "The Sensitive Future".


In the late 1980s Ritter served 16 months of a 3-year prison sentence in Fremantle and Karnet prisons for fraudulently attempting to obtain Commonwealth export grants; he maintained that he had been framed. After his release he published Curses From Canberra: public service conspiracy and the failure of democratic safeguards[21] and a collection of the poems and artwork he produced while serving his sentence. "They put me there against my will" he wrote, "There will be no apology / Prison is a great big phoney / The theory for it is pure baloney" and "Errors that placed me in this cage / Are still the subject of some rage." [6][22]

Philosophies and ideas

Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs's 1961 work The Death and Life of Great American Cities was criticised by many of the modernist planners and architects of the time, Paul Ritter included. He called her a "muddle-headed influence in planning" and declared that she should never have had the chance to put her ideas forward. Her book was a "shallow analysis of planning problems" and she undermined the best planning practices by taking no account of changes to the car, to the environment and to the modern city. He ridiculed her "confused thinking" and insistence upon streets and small blocks over the superblock for which he was an advocate in his 1964 work, Planning for Man and Motor:

She denounces the superblock as if it had to act in a frustrating way to citizens on the move with its more extensive and traffic-free path areas. She describes only bad use of this principle: "these streets are meaningless because there is seldom any active reason for a good cross-section of the people to use them." This merely means that a path system must make meaningful and plentiful connection with the surrounding areas, satisfying 'desire lines' and giving opportunities for creative additions and citizen-participation.


  1. Man of the Year, Architects' Journal, London 1962

  2. Runner-up, Citizen of the Year, Western Australia, 1974 and 1976


  1. Founder Director, International Traffic Segregation Research Office, 1953

  2. Member of Advisory Committee of the Civic Trust

  3. Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects

  4. Fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects

  5. Fellow of the Royal Town Planning Institute

  6. Member of the Royal Australian Planning Institute, Perth (now the Planning Institute of Australia)

  7. Member of the Metropolitan Regional Planning Authority, W.A.



  1. Planning for Man and Motor Oxford: Pergamon Press 1964, 1970

  2. Humanizing Concrete Ritter Press 1967

  3. Kids and Concrete Ritter Press 1979

  4. Concrete fit for people: Towards a Bio-functional Eco-architecture: a Practical Introduction Down to Earth Bookshop/Pergamon Press 1980

  5. Concrete Renaissance Down to Earth Bookshop/Pergamon Press 1982

  6. Bio-Building Down to Earth Bookshop/Pergamon Press 1983


  1. Housing and Social Patterns Ritter Press, Nottingham 1957

  2. Deck Housing Ritter Press, Perth 1965

  3. Faces of Perth Ritter Press, Kelmscott 1967


  1. The Free Family, Paul and Jean Ritter, Gollancz, 1959

    1. Translated into German by Rowholt, 1972 & 1978;

    2. Translated into Dutch by Nelissen and Bloemendaal, 1973;

    3. Translated into Hebrew by Massada, 1973;

    4. A later edition, The Free Family and Feedback, Gollancz, 1975, had a large additional section with comments from the children, now young adults, on their upbringing.

  2. Educreation, Paul Ritter, Oxford Press, 1966

    1. Educreation and Feedback, Pergamon Press, 1979

  3. A Fascinating Record: 25 Years 1953–1978, Peer Institute Perth, Paul and Jean Ritter, PEER Institute, 1978.

Biography and philosophy

  1. Orgonomic Functionalism (Periodical) Edited by Paul Ritter, Ritter Press, 1954–1964

  2. Universal Manifestations of Orgone Energy in Spirals Ritter Press, Nottingham 1954

  3. Some New Formulations in Orgonomy Ritter Press, Nottingham 1955

  4. Wilhelm Reich; Memorial Volume, Edited by Paul Ritter, Ritter Press, 1958

  5. The Ten Taboos Down to Earth Bookshop Press, Perth 1981

  6. Prison Poems, Karnet 1986

  7. Prison Poems, Karnet 1987

  8. Curses from Canberra PEER Institute, Perth 1989


  1. Perth in Peril, Paul Ritter, Ritter Press, 1968.

  2. ’’Perth Break Through of Break Down: A Crisis in Regional Planning’’, Paul Ritter, PEER Institute, Perth 1971

  3. ’’Perth central area design co-ordinating study’’ Section: An Answer to the Stephenson Report on Central Perth’’, Paul Ritter, City Council Town Planning Committee, 1975

Other work

In Nottingham and later in Perth, he and Jean Ritter ran several exhibitions called "The Child's Eye View", where everything was built 2.5 times normal size to show adults what it was like to be a child.[citation needed]

In the Supreme Court Gardens in central Perth, his sculpture "The Ore Obelisk" (1971) symbolises the diversity of mining industry from which Western Australia's wealth is largely derived.[23]


  1. 1Jump up
    Old Perth at Life on Perth

  2. 2Jump up
    Thomas, Beatrice. "Perth's first planner Paul Ritter dies". The West Australian, 16 June 2010.

  3. 3Jump up
    Ritter, Helen. "Jean Patricia Ritter". ECU Foundation. Retrieved 15 June 2012.

  4. 4Jump up
    Ritter, Helen: Honouree Profile of Jean Ritter at Edith Cowan University Foundation

  5. 5Jump up
    Letter Reich to Neill of August 29, 1954. In: Beverley R. Placzek (ed.): Record of a friendship. The correspondence between Wilhelm Reich and A.S. Neill. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York 1981, p. 379

  6. 6^ Jump up to:
    a b Ritter, Paul, (1989) Curses from Canberra : public service conspiracy and the failure of democratic safeguards Perth, W.A : P.E.E.R. Institute, 1989. ISBN 0-909647-03-8

  7. 7Jump up
    Nuttgens, P (May 1966). "Book Review: Educreation: Education for Creation, Growth and Change by Paul Ritter". Urban Studies: 375.

  8. 8Jump up
    Gregory 2003, p.105

  9. 9Jump up
    Briton is first city planning officer of Perth, Australia. Appointed Town Planner City of Perth, March 1965. Commenced duties May 1965. Local Government Journal of Western Australia, Vol. XXX, No. 9 (Mar. 1965), p. 50

  10. 10Jump up
    Ritter, Paul (April 2005). "City of Light: A History of Perth Since the 1950s [Review]". The Australian Public Intellectual Network. Retrieved 16 June 2012.

  11. 11^ Jump up to:
    a b Alexander, Ian; Phil McManus (1992). "A New Direction for Perth Transport?". Urban Policy and Research 10 (4): 6–13. doi:10.1080/08111149208551528.

  12. 12Jump up
    Sanders, Roger (26 May 1969). "He wants us all to co-operate". The Age: 6. Retrieved 16 June 2012.

  13. 13Jump up
    Jeremy, Dawkins (26 March 2008). "Grand plans and accidents: the future of central Perth". State Administrative Tribunal. Retrieved June 16, 2012.

  14. 14Jump up
    "Irregular No:22, Planning and Democracy - Paul Ritter Speaks". Town Planning Research Group. June 1969. Retrieved 16 June 2012.

  15. 15Jump up
    Papers relating to committee formed to initiate an enquiry into the dismissal of Paul Ritter, 1967 [manuscript] Battye Library, MN 310; ACC 1782A.

  16. 16Jump up
    Christensen, Joseph (2011). "East Perth 1916-1981: A Changing Commercial and Industrial Landscape". Perth: Murdoch Business School. Retrieved 10 January 2012. Page 60

  17. 17Jump up
    MacTiernan, A (17 June 2010). "Paul Ritter —Condolence". W.A. Parliament Hansard.

  18. 18Jump up
    Ritter, Paul (1972). An analytical study of the proposed corridor plan for Perth and possible alternate approach to a regional plan for the metropolitan area. Perth.

  19. 19Jump up
    Bolton, Geoffrey. "The Historical Context: Events and Issues that made news in 1971". Constitutional Centre of Western Australia.

  20. 20Jump up
    "Towards a Vision of Perth in 2029". Ministry for Planning. 2000.

  21. 21Jump up
    Ritter, Paul (1989). Curses from Canberra : public service conspiracy and the failure of democratic safeguards. Perth: PEER Institute. ISBN 090964702X.

  22. 22Jump up
    Ritter, Paul, (1999) Soul & sex imprisoned : illustrated stories, ballads, verses & proposals Kalamunda, W.A. : Planned Environment and Educreation Research Institute Press for Educreation Assoc., ISBN 0-646-37724-8 (pbk.) Former Perth City councillor who spent time in jail in the 1980s has put together a collection of stories, ballads and poems drawn from his time in jail

  23. 23Jump up
    The Ore Obelisk at Australia Down Under

Further reading

  1. Gregory, Jenny City of light: a history of Perth since the 1950s Section: Paul Ritter - career of Perth's first City Planner, controversies and achievements and his work as a Perth City Councillor -pp. 134–152. City of Perth, 2003. ISBN 0-9594632-4-0

Authority control

  1. VIAF: 23530580 ISNI: 0000 0001 2209 4587 SUDOC: 135374863 ULAN: 500257048

  2. 1Categories: 2010 deaths1925 birthsAustralian non-fiction writersAustralian sculptorsPeople from Perth, Western AustraliaPeople from PragueAustralian urban plannersRadburn design housing estates