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Where Does Planning Come From?

Where did city, urban, and regional planning come from???

The American Planning Association points planning's origins to 5 root causes:

  1. Aesthetics Roots and the City Beautiful Movement- The City Beautiful Movement began in the 1800's and it is exactly what its name suggests. In the 1800's, cities and towns were not built with aesthetics in mind. Most thought how a city looked was not the role of government. The City Beautiful Movement traces its beginnings to the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 when a large portion of the fairgrounds were transformed into a "White City" showcasing architecture and landscaping. That thought process transferred to a macro level sparking citizens to ask why that same concept couldn't be applied, citywide.
  2. Civil Engineering and Public Health Concerns- During the industrial era, American cities were filthy and crowded. Water was contaminated and sewage was not treated leading to numerous water-borne and insect-bred diseases. Installing clean water systems (and later expanding them) required planning and civil engineering. Architecture also changed to add more sunlight and fresh air. Engineering and public health concerns are still among the top priorities of all comprehensive planning efforts.
  3. The Municipal Reform Movement- Up until the early 1900's, city governments were not very corrupt. As more Americans became educated and the middle class developed, the tolerance for bad government declined. The public's cry for better government led to more governmental transparency and hiring professional civil servants. The 1920's also resulted n the Standard Zoning Enabling Act and the Standard Planning Enabling Act. Both encouraged cities to think about organizing land uses and think about future growth.
  4. The Social Reform Movement- The first planners examined the living conditions of the working class and the growing income disparities of the rich and poor. The Social Reform Movement picked up speed in the 1950's and '60's. From planning's social reform efforts birthed the use of community facilities, parks and housing opportunities to improve the quality of life for all.
  5. The Environmental Revolution- In the 1960's Americans became more concerned with the environment. The sustainability of water, air, and soils grew in overall awareness. From that movement stemmed the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Protection Act. Sustainability is still at the forefront of the city, urban, and regional planning today.
These 5 threads are interwoven into the modern planning, designing, and architecture will consider today. 


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