Radburn was founded in 1929 as "a town for the motor age". Its planners, Clarence Stein and Henry Wright, and its landscape architect Marjorie Sewell Cautley aimed to incorporate modern planning principles, which were then being introduced into England's Garden Cities, following ideas advocated by urban planners Ebenezer Howard, Sir Patrick Geddes and Clarence Perry. Perry’s Neighbourhood unit concept was well-formulated by the time Radburn was planned, being informed by Forest Hills Gardens, Queens, New York (1909–1914), a garden-city development of the Russell Sage Foundation.
Radburn was explicitly designed to separate traffic by mode, with a pedestrian path system that does not cross any major roads at grade. Radburn introduced the largely residential "superblock" and is credited with incorporating some of the earliest culs-de-sac in the United States.