Urban planning concerns itself with the organization of grids, systems, flow; of where people are, where people should be, and what they should do there. Ecologists study relationships between living things and the environment. Fifty years ago, Scottish landscape architect, author, and TV personality Ian McHarg wrote his seminal book, Design with Nature. That same year, he also delivered a report to the Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities, An Ecological Study of the Twin Cities (Wallace et al, 1969). The Metropolitan Council had taken a bold step in thinking about their work differently--from an “ecology-first” perspective rather than an “economic-growth first” perspective. McHarg considered the grids, system, flow, and most importantly, where people were and where they should be, primarily through the lens of the relationships between all of the living things in the region and the land. The overall purpose of this report is to determine what impact, if any, McHarg’s report--and his ecology-first perspective--had on Metropolitan Council policymaking.
McHarg spoke and wrote powerfully to what many considered the foremost planning challenge of the era, that of inadequate management of burgeoning economic growth. He also gave special attention to one of the most visible costs of poorly managed growth -- unconsidered destruction of sensitive open space and attendant harm to natural systems. In essence, McHarg believed that if planners took an “ecology-first” approach, the other goals of economic growth, housing, and transportation could all be realized, resulting in healthier and safer communities.
The Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities was a first-of-its-kind regional governing body for the seven-county area. Within two years of its inception, the Council chose to commission McHarg to write a report assessing the area. Like McHarg, Twin Cities leaders were deeply concerned about the harmful effects of poorly managed growth, particularly the destruction of open space. In a 1967 report calling for the creation of the Metropolitan Council, the Citizens League identified open space protection among the most important functions of the envisioned body and warned, “Unless large tracts of parks and open space are acquired promptly, the land will be taken over by developers and lost for public purposes forever” (Citizens League, 1967).
Capstone paper for the fulfillment of the Master of Public Affairs degree.
Adkins, Athena; Barton, Julie; Carrera, Lindsay; Mohamed, Kowsar; Williams, James.
McHarg and the Metropolitan Council An (Un)likely Romance.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.