The History of City and Regional Planning at AAP

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Planning Emerges at Cornell: 1918–40s

The third oldest department of its kind, planning topics at Cornell were the subject of classes starting in 1918, but it was only in 1935 that a three-year grant from the Carnegie Corporation enabled Cornell to establish an interdisciplinary program of planning classes under the leadership of Gilmore D. Clarke '13. The first regional planning master’s degree was awarded in 1943, though the first full class of eight students graduated after the war in 1947–48. Professor Emeritus John Reps was a member of that class.


In 1957 K. C. Parsons (M.R.P. '53), who became department chairman in 1964 and later served as dean of the college, moved from professional work in Cleveland to Cornell to offer classes in planning practice, urban renewal, and design-oriented fieldwork. The addition of required classes from other colleges on campus rounded out what was by then a strong and varied planning curriculum. The primary aim of the curriculum was the preparation of planners for work related to the physical planning, design, construction, and management of the city. Students focused on classes that introduced them to the comprehensive planning process, land use policy making and administration, infrastructure investment, urban design, and site planning.


Because of the growth in enrollment, research activity, and the increasing distinction between the city "physical" and the city "social," two distinct departments were formed in the early 1970s: Urban Planning and Development, chaired by Stuart Stein, an architect and planner who had come to Cornell some years earlier from private practice; and Policy Planning and Regional Analysis, chaired by Barclay Jones, an architect, planner and economist, who was recruited from U.C. Berkeley. The first was focused on the department's traditional urban design and physical planning concentration and the other focused on the rigorous analysis of social problems confronting the city.

Although academically successful, the division proved to be expensive. In 1976 the departments were merged to form the Department of City and Regional Planning and Sidney Saltzman, a computing specialist and engineer, was elected chairman. Within the reunified and reorganized department, there remained a concentration in Environmental Planning and Physical Design and a second concentration in Economic Development at the community and regional level. More importantly, a departmental culture evolved that accepted the legitimacy of diverse approaches: theory building, analytical, descriptive, and codification work as well as action-oriented professional practice; work with established institutions as well as a strong commitment to social justice and social change. At that point, some 160 students were in residence, and by the end of this period, 700 graduate degrees had been conferred through the department.


In the late 1970s and 1980s, three vital additions to the graduate curriculum emerged — the programs in historic preservation planning, regional science, and international studies — as well as the undergraduate program in urban and regional studies. A graduate real estate program was added in the 1990s, and, in the late 2000s, in addition to existing joint degree programs with landscape architecture and architecture and law, joint degree programs with real estate and public administration were introduced. A master’s international program in partnership with the Peace Corps was also established, allowing M.R.P. students an opportunity to combine a Cornell learning experience with a hands-on Peace Corps community building experience. Joint faculty appointments also continued to be made. Earlier appointments had been with sociology, rural sociology, architecture, women’s studies, and landscape architecture, and in the 2000s with programs on Asian American studies and Latino studies.

In 2013 the department is home to more than 125 undergraduate urban and regional studies majors; 100 masters students; and 25 Ph.D. students in planning and regional science. Over the years CRP has graduated 1,418 M.R.P.s; 290 Ph.D.s; and hundreds of B.A.s of urban and regional studies. There have also been almost 200 M.A.s in historic preservation; 75 M.A.s and 70 Ph.D.s in regional science; and a number of masters of professional studies. These graduates have gone on to promising careers around the world.

Department Timeline

Timeline of events for the Department of City and Regional Planning at AAP.
Year Event
1918 Professor Everett V. Meeks presents lectures on the history of planning
1928–30 William Schuchardt teaches city planning seminar
1935 First regional planning classes taught under Carnegie Corporation grant in a joint architecture and engineering program
1943 First full planning cohort graduates, including John Reps
1952 First Ph.D. degree awarded to Robert Hoover
1956 First woman planning graduate, Sobhagya Komarakul
1960s International activities expand in the department
1962 Cornell starts offering classes in historic preservation
1971–75 Department splits into two: Urban Planning and Analysis and Policy Planning and Regional Analysis
1972 Regional Science program established
1975 Historic Preservation becomes a major concentration
1976 Departments merged
1981 Undergraduate program started as a two-year major; expanded to a four-year degree in 1987
1984 Department celebrates its 50th Anniversary
1987 First tenured woman faculty member (Lourdes Beneria) and two tenure-track faculty hired (Susan Christopherson and Margaret Wilder)
1988 CRP joins Cornell in Rome program
1997 Real Estate program established
1998–99 First major expansion of the department in 10 years: Three tenure-track faculty hired (Ann-Margaret Esnard, Rolf Pendall, and Mildred Warner)
2005–07 Second major expansion of the department: Three tenure-track faculty hired (Stephan Schmidt, Clement Lai, and Arturo Sanchez), two tenured professors hired (Ann Forsyth and Kieran Donaghy)
2010 Department celebrates 75 years of transforming planning
Long-serving faculty Lourdes Beneria, Pierre Clavel, William Goldsmith, David Lewis, and Porus Olpadwala retire and new tenure-track faculty Michael Manville and Jennifer Minner and tenured professors Victoria Beard and Thomas Campanella hired
2015-17 Department celebrates 80 years; three assistant professors hired (Suzanne Charles, Linda Shi, and Nicholas Klein)

75th Anniversary

In 2010, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of planning at Cornell, the department hosted a weekend of events and published a book titled Transforming Planning: 75 Years of City and Regional Planning at Cornell. The two-day event featured speakers, discussions, networking panels, and social activities for the nearly 140 CRP alumni in attendance.

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