Kristin Larsen: Beyond Radburn: Why Clarence Stein Still Matters

Kristin Larsen in the background with her introducer Michael Tomlan in the foreground.
Kristin Larsen (Ph.D. CRP '01), being introduced by City and Regional Planning Professor Michael Tomlan before her lecture. William Staffeld / AAP
 Kristin Larsen
Kirsten Larsen lecturing in the Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium. William Staffeld / AAP
 Kristin Larsen talking with students in a classroom
Kirsten Larsen responding to a question during her "talk back" session in room 115 West Sibley Hall. William Staffeld / AAP

Kristin Larsen (Ph.D. CRP '01), AICP, holds a Ph.D. from Cornell, and an M.A. in urban and regional planning and a B.S. in business administration from the University of Florida. She is an associate professor, director of the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning, and acting chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida. Her expertise in housing policy, neighborhood planning, urban and planning history, and historic preservation has resulted in numerous publications including peer-reviewed articles for Housing Studies, Housing Policy Debate, Urban Studies, Planning Perspectives, and Planning History. Her most recent publication, Community Architect: The Life and Vision of Clarence S. Stein (Cornell University Press, 2016), examines this significant transitional figure's ground-breaking concepts from site design to housing finance and management. As part of a collaborative research team, she drafted one of the first state-wide studies to assess historic preservation and its contributions to quality of life. She has also participated on a multidisciplinary research team that developed a flexible spatial model to identify and assess the suitability of sites for affordable housing development and preservation. Her dynamic leadership in the dual roles of department chair and school director included spearheading the development of the first online graduate program in urban and regional planning in the U.S.


Clarence Stein's iconic new town of Radburn, New Jersey, is now a historic landmark. Many of his ideas — particularly the "modernization" of the Garden City in the late 1920s and early 1930s for the "motor age" — are relegated to the history books. Yet critical elements of Stein's community proposals resonate with planners, landscape architects, architects, and developers today, whether they know it or not. The low-income housing tax credit program integrates elements of what Stein called "investment housing" – quality design at a reasonable return targeted at working class residents. His signature community designs — weaving together private gardens with a hierarchy of public parks — represent a sophisticated understanding of open space design evident today in green infrastructure. From new mortgage instruments to broaden home ownership to public-private partnerships, Stein's influence endures. This presentation elaborates on themes from Larsen's recently published book, Community Architect: The Life and Vision of Clarence S. Stein.