Regional Planning

In 1933, University of Illinois Professor of Landscape Architecture, Karl B. Lohmann taught what many consider to be one of the first Regional Planning courses in the United States. Regional Planning, a sub-field of Urban Planning, focuses on the organization of communities and land usage for a large area, rather than a single city or town. The course was taught in Mumford Hall and covered a variety of topics including conservation, highway networks, and state parks.

While working at the University of Illinois, Lohmann assisted other planners of the era with developing several American universities, including Rutgers University. He also  published a long-term park plan for the state. During his first decade teaching at Illinois, he lectured on landscape architecture, but soon felt that his students should cultivate an understanding for planning on a larger scale.

17 people in a living room posing for photo
City Planning and Landscape Architecture Department, 1950

In his syllabus, Lohmann wrote that the objective of the course was to “develop an appreciation for and an understanding of the regional idea—physical and otherwise—and regional problems; and of the possibilities for unified improvement in metropolitan areas, counties, states, river basins and other regional units” (Lohmann, 1953).

What might the benefits of this knowledge have been for the future planners of America during the early 20th century?         

The course was best known for the multitude of prominent presenters Lohmann invited to speak to the class, including notables Henry Wright, planner of towns across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and T. F. Frison, the Chief of the Natural History Survey Illinois and famed conservationist.

5 people in a field looking at a notebook
Landscaping class trip

Class trips to Southern Illinois were also a popular feature of the Regional Planning course, as students were to have a hands-on understanding of the material.

What do you think students were looking to observe by going on these trips?

Some of the questions Lohmann’s students answered throughout this course included “How much of the Earth is not good to live on and why?”; “What would you regard as the most important of water problems?”; or “How has the airplane been of use other than as a medium of transport?” (Lohmann, 1940).

Students were also expected to choose a region of the United States and collect a series of reports detailing the topography, plant life, social factors, recreational facilities, conservation districts, and more. This course was successful in “[creating an] appreciation of the desirability of looking forward instead of backward in the shaping of the environment” (Unknown, 1950).     

– Mumford Hall, where the course was taught on the second floor



Author Unknown. (1951). Regional Planning in its 18th Year at the University of Illinois. Record Series 12/4/20, Box 7, Folder Regional Planning Course Programs 1933-1953. University of Illinois Archives.  

Deming, M. E. Pioneer Information. Retrieved on March 5th, 2019 from The Cultural Landscape Foundation:

Department of City Planning and Landscape Architecture. (Spring, 1950). Record Series 12/4/20, Box 13, Folder Department Photos. University of Illinois Archives. (Image)

Landscaping Class Trip. (ca. 1940). Class Trip, Record Series 12/4/20, Box 14, Folder Photographs Landscaping, Class trips, Libertyville, New York, Navy, Washington. University of Illinois Archives. (Image)

Lohmann, K. (1953). Program for Survey of Regional Planning. Record Series 12/4/20, Box 7, Folder Regional Planning Course Programs 1933-1953. University of Illinois Archives.

Lohmann, K. (1940). Question Guide for the Study of Regional Planning. Record Series 12/4/20, Box 15, Folder Question Guide for the Study of Regional Planning by K. B. Lohmann, Jan. 1940. University of Illinois Archives.

Contributors: Gabrielle Marback-Pehler