Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia

Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia

Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia

Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia

Synopsis

A noted urban historian traces the story of the suburb from its origins in nineteenth-century London to its twentieth-century demise in decentralized cities like Los Angeles.

Excerpt

This book began as an attempt to get away from utopia. My first book had dealt with three twentieth century planners whom I called "urban utopians": Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Le Corbusier. They believed that planning must begin with the uncompromising rejection of all previous urban forms and seek the creation of a new utopian city based on advanced technology, aesthetic harmony, and social justice. They disagreed vehemently about the form of the ideal twentieth century city, but they agreed on one crucial point: the ideal city would have no place for suburbia. With passion and eloquence they attacked the suburban ideal, and their arguments were taken up by some of the most influential architects and planners of their time.

I felt inspired by these three planners' utopian visions, but I could not help reflecting that their designs for ideal cities remained largely on paper and were often disappointing when built; meanwhile, the suburban ideal was winning enough support from ordinary people in the real world to transform the structure of the modern city. This obvious fact suggested that a study of the history of suburbia would teach some vital lessons which were necessarily absent from my first book. What are the true sources of new urban forms which prove to be effective? What are the real forces that shape urban growth? What are the mechanisms whereby new ideas are transmitted to those who have the power to transform the built environment? In . . .

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