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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Yesterday's city of tomorrow: The Minnesota Experimental City and green urbanism
by wildermuth, Todd A., Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008, 278; 3337978
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is a case study of the rise and fall of the Minnesota Experimental City (MXC), a futuristic attempt from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s to build an all-new, pollution-free metropolis in rural northern Minnesota. As imagined by its inventor, Athelstan Spilhaus, the MXC was to provide a living laboratory for the design and implementation of cutting-edge pollution control systems. The original goals for the MXC included complete material and water recycling, elimination of the internal combustion engine, and enclosure of all or part of the city under a geodesic dome. Like many other thought leaders of the era, Athelstan Spilhaus believed that America needed to face two growing crises: the steady depopulation of traditional city centers and the exponential growth of waste and pollution. He proposed the MXC as an all-in-one solution to both crises, suggesting that the nation accommodate its population growth between 1970 and 2000 in dispersed new cities based on the MXC model. Spilhaus joined with other new-city enthusiasts to publicize the MXC idea nationally, acquire federal funding, and secure endorsements from major corporations. Ultimately, the state of Minnesota established a new state agency to site the proposed city and control public investment within its boundaries. As the agency designated a site, however, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, environmental groups, and community activists contested the MXC and brought it to a sudden, final halt. Some of the reasons for the MXC's failure were specific to its time and circumstances: MXC proponents could have managed their public relations better; the cultural ferment of the late 1960s changed public attitudes toward large projects; and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sought to protect its newly acquired bureaucratic turf. But other reasons for the MXC's failure ran deeper and confound “green city” efforts today: visions of a radically changed future brought both excitement and anxiety; experts seemed aloof from the concerns of ordinary people; citizens struggled to balance a landscape perspective with a local one; and few took the time to carefully examine how the modern metropolis might work with ecological systems rather than against them.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Freyfogle, Eric T.
School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-B 69/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Environmental science, Urban planning
Keywords: Athelstan Spilhaus, Environmental planning, Green urbanism, Minnesota Experimental City
Publication Number: 3337978
ISBN: 978-0-549-91233-0
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