Stein Institute Back Online for 2018

Aerial view of Radburn, New Jersey, one of Stein's planned communities. Clarence Stein Papers / Cornell University Library Digital Collections

January 30, 2018

The Department of City and Regional Planning (CRP) has revamped its programs honoring the legacy of progressive planning icon Clarence S. Stein, with updates to the institute that bears his name and increased visibility for the research it supports.

Department chair Jeffrey Chusid explains that a recent departmental review of the Clarence S. Stein Institute for Urban and Landscape Studies resulted in some organizational changes that will better define how the institute funds research and shares the trove of documents contained in the Clarence Stein Papers, a collection within the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

The Stein Institute, created in 1994 with an endowment provided by Stein's widow, Aline MacMahon Stein, has proven to be a successful and much-valued financial supporter of research in urban planning and landscape issues, not just for scholars at Cornell, but worldwide, Chusid says. Institute grant recipients represent the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban history, historic preservation, and city and regional planning.

"Over the past year, we have reevaluated the institute and its impacts to see if it was as effective as possible," he says. After exploring a wide range of possible directions and organizational structures, as well as reviewing the long legacy of successful grants, some modest tweaking was proposed.

Previously, there were three content-based grant categories — research, teaching, and community service. Now there are three classifications based on the nature of the applicant, plus a fellowship and lecture. "We found that grant categories often blurred when based on content and that we could better serve our mission by distinguishing the different types of applicants," says Chusid.

Grants are awarded to support research and community outreach projects by undergraduate and graduate students, to support research by advanced scholars (doctoral students, faculty members, and independent scholars), and for conservation and training at Stein-designed sites. The fellowship goes to a student in the Master of Regional Planning program, who will serve as the program administrator. Finally, the Stein Institute will fund an annual lecture in CRP.

The new Clarence S. Stein Institute website is designed as a resource for anyone studying the architect and planner's work, as well as the research findings emerging from prior grants. For example, there are links to the Stein papers housed in the Carl A. Kroch Library at Cornell. Those papers document the work of a man who was among the first to employ progressive, experimental architecture and planning practices in creating communities focused on social and environmental concerns.

"His building and landscape features were influenced by modernism and addressed the needs of a rapidly changing society," Chusid says, noting that Stein cofounded the Regional Planning Association of America in 1923 and helped design community building experiments featuring affordable housing, such as Radburn, New Jersey, and Sunnyside Gardens, New York.

A look at some of the 14 grants awarded in 2015, the institute's last funding cycle, shows the geographical and thematic variety of projects supported by the funding. Research subjects included "Adapting the City: Ethnic and Immigrant Integration in Buffalo's Broadway-Fillmore Neighborhood," "Reimagining Detroit: City Planning and the Practice of Futurity," "The Salt Exchange: Excavating Intersections of Industry and Community in Salt Mines of New York," "Fecal Environments and Toxic Urbanisms: Application of Computation for Design in Complex Urban Systems," and "First Step in the Implementation of the National Park Service's HALS, HABS, and GIS/GPS Programs for the Stein National Historic Landmark Garden Cities."

Roughly $100,000 is available each year to fund between 10 and 20 scholars. A faculty committee in CRP oversees management of the institute, with grant proposals reviewed by the committee and invited jurors. Since 1994, more than 200 grants have been given for research, community outreach, lectures, colloquia, and training workshops.

"The Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell is very fortunate to have in the institute such a powerful vehicle for funding research and community outreach, and honored that it serves to connect us directly to the professional legacy and progressive ideals of Clarence S. Stein and Aline MacMahon Stein," Chusid says. "Their gift will continue to provide extraordinary opportunities to students and scholars for decades to come."

By Jay Wrolstad

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