Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World Hardcover – January 26, 2016
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“An intriguing architectural history and an effective antidote to the excesses of urban renewal and city planning.” (Kirkus)
“Dream Cities offers a fascinating look at seven trends in urban planning that shaped the modern world.” (Shelf Awareness)
Praise for American Eden: “An ambitious study of the forms and ideas of the contemporary city.... Graham wants us to see these urban and architectural forms afresh, not as the drab commonplaces they have become but as the work of visionaries ‘whose dreamed-of cities became the blueprint for the world we actually live in.’” (New York Times Book Review)
From the Back Cover
A lively, unique, and accessible cultural history that explores our cities in a new way—as expressions of ideas, often conflicting, about how we should live, work, play, make, buy, and believe
Beginning as visionary concepts, the blue-prints for the world we live in today—sometimes utopian, sometimes outlandish, always controversial—were gradually adopted and constructed on a massive scale in international cities from London to Dubai to Ulan Bator to Los Angeles. Wade Graham uses the lives of the pivotal dreamers behind these archetypes, as well as their acolytes and antagonists, to deconstruct our urban landscapes—the houses, towers, civic centers, condominiums, malls, boulevards, highways, and spaces in between—exposing the ideals and ideas embodied in each.
Through in-depth portraits that take us from the baroque fantasy villages of Bertram Goodhue to the superblocks of Le Corbusier’s Radiant City to the pseudo-agrarian dispersal of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City, our upscale leafy suburbs, downtown skyscraper districts, infotainment-driven shopping centers, and “sustainable” eco-developments are seen as never before. In this elegantly designed and illustrated book, Graham uncovers the original plans of brilliant, obsessed, and sometimes megalomaniacal designers, revealing the foundations of today’s varied municipalities.
Dream Cities is nothing less than a field guide to our modern urban world.
Praise for Wade Graham’s American Eden
“Mr. Graham recounts his tale with considerable verve and a vast erudition in the history of gardening and the arts generally. . . . Among much else, Mr. Graham shows us that the history of how our nation grew can be found in what it has grown.”—Wall Street Journal
“A blazingly fresh, critical, and ecologically astute masterwork.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Enjoyable . . . well researched, posing an interesting historic tie from the past to the present.”—Washington Post
“Informative and absolutely engrossing . . . an astute analysis—and, ultimately, a joyous celebration—of four hundred years of ingenuity and vision.”—Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome
“We are what we plant, LA-based writer Wade Graham posits in his history of gardens. When he isn’t explaining the economic and cultural influences, he crafts fascinating profiles. . . . An engaging look at our own pieces of paradise.”—Los Angeles Magazine
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Let's take "Slabs". These are those rows of tall buildings designed to house people on masse. Think Robert Moses - city planner of New York City - who proposed these buildings as both offices and apartments. As Wade Graham writes, "Building slabs has been a collective exercise, or at least a widespread one...Many tens of thousands of different agents - architects, planners, developers, governments - have built them to supply new housing for growing populations, and to accommodate new modes of transportation, especially cars. In this sense, slabs were a "rational" choice made by many people in many places, in response to actual modern conditions". The reader might ask, "what WERE these conditions that required these soulless pieces of concrete?
Well, in the 1930's and on, when Robert Moses was charged with modernising the city of New York and the boroughs, he proposed these building to house the growing population. They were to house people whose neighborhoods had been destroyed by both urban blight and the roads and highways Moses was proposing to slash though the city. Graham writes about how many of Moses' plans were never built - the LOMEX through lower Manhattan, for instance - many in response to community protests at the destruction of their settled neighborhoods. Jane Jacobs - author of "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" - was a foremost opponent of Moses' lofty plans. In the relatively short chapter on "Slabs", Wade Graham goes into detail about slabs, Robert Moses, and Swiss architect Le Corbusier.
Now, maybe you're not interested in "Slabs"; there are plenty of other sections in Graham's book to curl up with. His book is wonderful, because it is a book that spurs the reader on to investigate further. Reading the book on an Ipad is perfect because I can flip to Wiki to look up a term or person I was unfamiliar with. Graham also gives pictures and a lexicon at the end of each chapter. I really did love this book and all I learned from it.
Top international reviews
The work is chronologically organized in seven sections:
• Castles (the first suburbs, often with nostalgic pseudo gothic or Renaissance architecture);
• Monuments (The City Beautiful Movement);
• Slabs (Le Corbusier and Modernism, lumped with Robert Moses);
• Homesteads (Frank Lloyd Wright and his disciples);
• Coral (Jane Jacobs and Neo-Urbanists thrown together);
• Habitats (Kenzo Tange, Norman Foster and techno-ecological cities).
For each, the author draws on the biography and life works of major contributors to present a very original, and informative, synthesis.
A detailed index is provided at the end of the book, supporting its potential as a textbook.
Sadly, however, nothing is perfect:
• Although the author announces from the start that he does not intend to take position on the various movements, the book stops abruptly, without a conclusion, as if it were unfinished;
• Worse, nothing is said of current ideas, regarding for instance ecological development or the importance given to cycling and walkability;
• The discussion is essentially centred on the United States, phenomena in other countries being mentioned to support discussion and not as elements of self-standing interest;
• The book’s illustrations are limited to poor quality black and white photos, which are grouped together at the end of each chapter; this is downright unworthy of a 21st century publication.
Overall, the book is still of great interest to all concerned with the shape of our cities as they are, if not so much of their future.