The Culture of Cities
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A visionary survey of urbanism from the Middle Ages to the late 1930s, with a new introduction by Thomas Fisher
Considered among the greatest works of Lewis Mumford—a prolific historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and longtime architecture critic for the New Yorker—The Culture of Cities is a call for communal action to “rebuild the urban world on a sounder human foundation.” First published in 1938, this radical investigation into the human environment is based on firsthand surveys of North American and European locales, as well as extensive historical and technological research. Mumford takes readers from the compact, worker-friendly streets of medieval hamlets to the symmetrical neoclassical avenues of Renaissance cities. He studies the squalor of nineteenth-century factory towns and speculates on the fate of the booming twentieth-century Megalopolis—whose impossible scale, Mumford believes, can only lead to its collapse into a “Nekropolis,” a monstrosity of living death.
A civic visionary, Mumford is credited with some of the earliest proposals for ecological urban planning and the appropriate use of technology to create balanced living environments. In the final chapters of The Culture of Cities, he outlines possible paths toward utopian future cities that could be free of the stressors of the Megalopolis, in sync with the rhythms of daily life, powered by clean energy, integrated with agricultural regions, and full of honest and comfortable housing for the working class. The principles set forth by these visions, once applied to Nazi-occupied Europe’s razed cities, are still relevant today as technological advances and overpopulation change the nature of urban life.
“Mumford finds the disintegrating forces of civilization at their peak in our cities; he analyzes the evils—speculative building, the will-to-profit, etc.—and he points the way out. . . . A challenging book.” —Kirkus Reviews
“To widen one’s horizons to cover practically the whole of civic culture . . . requires a very broad vision, an encyclopedic intelligence, and the labour of years. All these have gone to the making of this book. . . . From the Renaissance onwards the anti-social effects of capitalist economics are thus outlined and then underlined. . . . It is undeniably impressive, and—in the aesthetic sense—true.” —Town Planning Review
Lewis Mumford (1895–1990) was a native New Yorker internationally recognized as one of the most distinguished urbanists of the twentieth century. The architectural critic for the New Yorker for over thirty years, Mumford was also the author of more than twenty books and one thousand articles and reviews, on subjects ranging from art and literature to the histories of technology and urbanism. His book, The City in History, won the 1962 National Book Award for nonfiction. Before his death in 1990 at age ninety-four, Mumford received numerous accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964 and the National Medal of the Arts in 1986.
Thomas Fisher is a professor in the School of Architecture and dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. A graduate of Cornell University in architecture and Case Western Reserve University in intellectual history, he has written extensively about architectural design, practice, and ethics. His newest book, Some Possible Futures, Design Thinking Our Way to a More Resilient World will be available spring 2016. His current research involves looking at the implications of the “Third Industrial Revolution” on architecture and cities in the twenty-first century. Numerous tributes have been created in his name, including the Lewis Mumford Award from the Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility and the Lewis Mumford Lecture at the City College of New York.
- Category: Art & Architecture
- Published: Mar 08, 2016
- Publisher: Open Road Media
- Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC
- Print Length: 640 Pages
- Language: English
- Series: Forbidden Bookshelf