A critical assessment of Ian McHarg's human ecological planning curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania

William John Cohen, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This dissertation is a critical assessment of the ecological and later human ecological planning curriculum as envisioned and promoted by Ian L. McHarg at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). An examination is made of the historical development—including its philosophical and academic antecedents—and the ultimate decline of the curriculum, covering the period 1954 to 2000, McHarg's tenure at Penn in the Graduate School of Fine Arts. The ecological and later human ecological planning curriculum became the essence of the Regional Planning program in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning that emerged in the 1969–1970 academic year and was finally terminated by 1994. The importance of this examination is twofold: first, to research the intellectual and pedagogical development of a curriculum that would train and prepare almost an entire generation of regional planners. It was widely recognized as the model interdisciplinary academic curriculum in the field of city and regional planning. Second, the importance of the decline and ultimate phasing out of the curriculum, as an intellectual and methodological base for training professional planners and designers, can establish certain parameters for the construction of future curricula that would emphasize ecological or environmental planning. Investigations relied on two basic sources. First, a group of twelve individuals were selected as a composite group, consisting of former members (or other associates of McHarg) in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, especially during his service as Chairman from 1957 to 1986. Second, extensive research utilized the Bulletins published by the Graduate School of Fine Arts for McHarg's entire tenure at Penn. The Bulletins (from 1954 to 1991) and later catalogues (after 1991) became the primary source of information to track development and changes to the Department's pedagogical statement, course offerings, and the composition of faculty. The conclusion is that there were many factors—personal, pedagogical-methodological, and external—that were responsible for the decline and ultimate termination of McHarg's human ecological planning curriculum.

Subject Area

Urban planning|Area planning & development|Curricula|Teaching|Higher education|Landscaping

Recommended Citation

Cohen, William John, "A critical assessment of Ian McHarg's human ecological planning curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3087385.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3087385

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