In 1959, as a graduating student from McGill architecture school in Montreal, I set out on a study trip sponsored by the Canadian Central Mortgage and Housing corporation. Five students, one from each of the five architecture schools in the country, we traveled through the suburbs and downtowns of American and Canadian cities at the height of the suburban explosion. Having moved to Montreal from Israel only a few years earlier, I relished this eight-week voyage as my first true exposure to the North American pattern of urbanization that seemed to be leading the way for the rest of the world.
Traveling from the dense Northeast to the Midwest and West coast, I found myself repeatedly and profoundly impressed by the force of suburbanization -- the desire for dispersal outward from city after city, and the ubiquitous dream of individually owning one's house and garden. Yet all five of us were particularly charmed by our visits to downtown San Francisco, Georgetown in Washington, DC, and Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. The attached, compact buildings stepping up the hills in San Francisco, the brick houses lining the streets of Georgetown, and the elegant, well-defined urban square in Philadelphia were all reminders of the vitality of places where people of diverse backgrounds mingled, of the idealized image of cities we each carried in our mind's eye. These