Monday, October 26, 2009

Charles Mulford Robinson

Imagine my pleasant surprise--combined with some mortification for not knowing sooner--when I learned that one of the pioneers in urban planning and planning education was a Rochesterian. Charles Mulford Robinson was not only a pioneering urban planner who took the lead on plans for several American cities, but was also a leading planning theorist, journalist, and writer. He also was one of the first teachers of planning and community design-- a Professor of Civic Design at the University of Illinois.

Certainly, some of Robinson's ideas unfortunately reflect the prevailing discriminatory views of his time, but even though I would disagree with and discredit some of his planning ideas as a result, I think raising his name from obscurity can serve as a great conversation-starter about community planning, design, and development--topics that more people need to be talking about more often!

A Wikipedia page for Robinson gives a decent overview:

And this excellent, detailed post from my former hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia gives a solid overview and critique of Robinson's ideas:

Robinson is buried in Rochester's famous Mount Hope Cemetery.

I have only once heard Robinson included in a list of prominent and important Rochesterians. Hence, I have a(nother) new crusade: to make sure Rochester and the planning profession know about Charles Mulford Robinson! Including him on oft-spoken lists of prominent Rochesterians would not only honor his work, but again, get people thinking and talking about important community planning and design concepts and issues!

I wonder if Robinson is included in the popular and fascinating Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery walking tours. I will find out...

Thankfully, there's no shortage of information about Charles Mulford Robinson and his work on that amazing universe we call the internet. Try a search...

by Evan Lowenstein

Evan is the Coordinator of the RochesterCityLiving program at the Landmark Society.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the enthusiastic endorsement of the work of Charles Mulford Robinson. Your readers might also want to know that he is profiled in the prestigious work edited by Charles Birnbaum, FASLA and Robin Karsen: "Pioneers of American Landscape Design", McGraw-Hill, New York, 2000.

Camille Fife, Madison, Indiana

Anonymous said...

Appreciate the info! I learned of Mr. Robinson while reading a great book on the history of downtown areas and how they've changed (great book so far!). I have an architectural research business in Tucson AZ and have been involved in several preservation projects. I love to see what's happening in other areas of the country. Unfortunately with financial cuts to preservation programs, work is scarce, but I wouldn't change it for anything. Thanks again for the interesting site, I will take the time to read the other posts!

Catherine in Tucson

iPMM said...

Evan, I was just researching him as he was on the first board of the MAG and I will have to look further into his writings. We should do a program on him, as I think he has receded into the far distant past and he was obviously an important influence on Rochester.

Margie Searl said...

Evan, the previous comment was left by Margie Searl.

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