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About The Great Lakes Century


The Great Lakes Century inspires all in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin to envision and take action towards a prosperous and sustainable future for the region. This pro-bono initiative of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s City Design Practice advances a 100-year vision for the watershed focused on environmental protection, smart growth, and economic revitalization.

The region’s future prosperity requires a collaborative approach to development that transcends political boundaries. The Great Lakes Century encourages all of us to think boldly about our shared wealth in the world’s largest surface fresh water source. The vision calls for strategic planning principles to guide regional decision making for the next 100 years.

Designers can play an important role in activating meaningful dialogue and advocating for progressive policies towards realizing a shared regional vision for the future. SOM brings extensive international planning and design experience to this initiative with master planning projects in over 20 cities in 2012 alone. SOM’s interdisciplinary team includes architects, urban planners, engineers, ecologists, and landscape architects.


To celebrate the Burnham Plan Centennial in 2009, SOM’s City Designers took a bold view of the region’s future. They saw that despite hundreds of important efforts to clean and protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, none addressed the binational watershed comprehensively, as a whole ecosystem.

In the spring of 2009, SOM released “Recognizing a Global Resource: The Need for a 100-Year Vision for the Great Lakes, and St Lawrence River Region.” The vision document identified the basin’s most pressing issues and opportunities for the next 100 years of development.

In four years, SOM has engaged scientists, politicians, environmentalists, businesses, and public policy advocates from over 35 organizations working actively in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region. The vision set forth in this initiative was unanimously approved by the 95 Mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

How to Participate

We welcome stakeholders in all fields to provide feedback on our work, share case studies, or contribute to our blog. Please contact great.lakes@som.com for more information.