*** Dream Cities by Wade Graham

Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World shows us the world of seven architects or groups of architects, many but not all of them American, who influenced the way cities are organized. I found it very interesting that architects, for the most part, are the ones portrayed here, since it seems that many of them may have had great ideas about how to organize a single house (or an apartment building, perhaps) but taking their vision to the scale of a city seems not to work so well. Indeed, the only non-professional featured in the book, Jane Jacobs, who wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities that so ably critique disastrous so-called Urban Renewal tactics, seems to have intuited much more correct principles of how cities function than pretentious architects.

The first chapter contains a wonderful description of the Spanish Revival style in California in the early 20th Century, which is worth reading the book, in my mind. And the author clearly points out both how technical advances in construction techniques made some of the changes possible, and how political lobbying favored certain types of city planning above others. Quite an interesting, if often depressing, look at cities.


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