From Publishers Weekly
Despite its coy and misleading subtitle, this is a mesmerizing history of how deep-seated struggles over architectural aspirations, economics, city planning and the exigencies of a democracy undergird the New York cityscape. Taking the planning and building of the twin towers of the World Trade Center as a point of departure, Darton treats readers to a smoothly written and provocative study of everything from the potentially utopian nature of cities to the role of the automobile in urban redevelopment, and from the aesthetics and politics of constructing tall structures (including the Eiffel Tower) to a history of the contested development of lower Manhattan. While grounded in the theories of such diverse thinkers as Jane Jacobs, Peter Kropotkin, John Ruskin, Marshall Berman, LeCorbusier and Lewis Mumford, Darton's dramatic narrative never loses sight of the strong personalities and (often unscrupulous) political hardball that reshaped Manhattan. Central figures include such power players as master planner Robert Moses ("who by his own description hacked his way through New York with a meat ax") and investment developer David Rockefeller and his brother, Nelson, the governor of New York State (whom Darton casually compares to gangsters). A professor of media, technology and cultural studies at Hunter College, Darton is best when elucidating the economic interests behind urban renewal and the destruction of neighborhoods that has often ensued in more than 40 years of Manhattan redevelopment, culminating in the building of one of New York's iconic landmarks. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Among the most widely recognized of human-made structures, New York City's World Trade Center is both beloved for its photogenic skyline presence and vilified for symbolizing bloated bureaucracy and heartless modernism. These two books comprise initial attempts to flesh out the WTC's history, appraise its place in 20th-century architecture, and judge its success as urban design and economic planning. Neither author is an authority on architecture, city planning, politics, or economics, and both treat the WTC itself as a backdrop to the political maneuvering that made its creation possible. Gillespie (American studies, Rutgers) pens an absorbing account incorporating personal interviews and observations, exuding enthusiasm and empathy. In striking contrast, Darton's (cultural studies, Hunter Coll.) study brims with irony, invective, and irrelevant digressions. Where Gillespie sees the New York Port Authority, the WTC's parent, as a powerful agency struggling to fulfill its mandate to facilitate transport and commerce, Darton sees the undiluted evil of unaccountable government officials in pursuit of ignoble ends. The same events are given diametrically opposed interpretations, and a few facts appear to be in dispute. Gillespie examines the tower's planning and construction in far more depth, but both he and Darton take the same superficial approach as Tom Wolfe in From Bauhaus to Our House. For now, architecture librarians will remain better served by Anthony Robin's The World Trade Center (1987). Large urban planning collections, however, may want to add both Twin Towers and Divided We Stand as a lesson in contrasting interpretation.-David Solt?sz, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.