Short Take: Dream Cities – Wage Graham

Graham follows his cultural history of gardens, American Eden, with a book on modern cities from the perspective of the designers and architectural movements who envisioned “dream cities” that we both embraced and that could be at odds with community life as it is actually lived. The book covers suburbs, downtown districts, exurban sprawl, the development of the shopping mall and the newer idea of “sustainable” developments. As with his last book, this is illustrated throughout.

“Garden designer and historian Graham explores how modern cities were built on foundations made of the fantasies and utopian dreams of individual architects….He shows how building design and city planning have combined to destroy our sense of community….His heroine is Jane Jacobs, who organized the resistance to Robert Moses’ destructive plans in New York in the 20th century. She helped save the community-based neighborhoods of lower Manhattan, including Washington Square…[from plans whose] styles put structure ahead of community, and Graham outlines their common underpinnings, which are often fantastic dreams about recovering lost golden ages or overcoming present chaos with some abstract future order. The author’s spirited defense of Jacobs’ successful struggle against Moses points to an alternative in which people and community again became primary.”
Kirkus Reviews

“This survey of prominent architectural trends through the 19th and 20th centuries serves as a concise historical primer of mainly American urban development….Graham’s precise encapsulations of architects’ biographies and philosophies hit the relevant highlights with a lively, accessible style….”
Publishers Weekly

Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World (9780062196316) by Wade Graham. $29.99 hardcover. 1/26/16 on sale.

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