Urban Utopia

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Matt Torres Dr. Cay Hehner Modern New York November 1, 2012

Research Paper The history of the urban utopia arose when theorists and city planners decided that a radical reconstruction of their cities (Venturi 4) was needed. There are problems that arose in cities of every generation and these problems have sparked the minds of the greatest thinkers, planner, architects, and theorists of the 19th century. These were the first attempts at correcting the problems that we deal with today. Problems such as dealing with growth, dealing with nature, and dealing with civilization. Throughout the history of the city, it seems as though some of these basic principles have been forgotten. However, we can look towards the work of Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Le Corbusier, who were some of the most dominant architectural thinkers who advanced the field of urban-conceptual thought into places it had never been before. The radical thinker, known as Sir Ebenezer Howard, is widely regarded by many to be one of the most influential urban planners of the 19th century. His work with the English Garden City Movement led to a worldwide response about how cities will deal with a rapid increase of people. His goal was to provide comfortable cities, which had an abundance of affordable housing; arranged in ways that would incorporate nature to its fullest. His work, unlike that of Robert Moses (another influential urban planner), Frank Lloyd Wright, or Le Corbusier,

focused on the people and their ability to live in cities, without sacrificing their valuable green space. Howard was born on Fore Street, in the city of London on January 29th, 1850. He was the son of a shopkeeper and was sent away to school at a young age. He was schooled in Suffolk, then Cheshunt in Hertforshire, and finally completed his education at the age of 15 at Stoke Hall, Ipswich (Letchworth, para. 2). Working odd jobs out of school, he was eventually persuaded to go to the US at the age of 21. Around the time he came to America, he witnessed the American re-growth and recovery from the Great Fire of 1871…a fire which destroyed most of the central business district (Letchworth para. 5). His views with how America planned to rebuild in this small city of Chicago led him to constantly be fascinated with this aspect of growth in the city. Ebenezer Howard had specific ideas of how future cities could deal with growth, and a rapid influx of people. He came up with The Garden City under the belief that it will be revolutionary in itself, like the early locomotive, capable of great improvement (Venturi 27). His Garden City grew out of the belief that centralization was the answer; a society where poverty and unemployment are unknown ... (where) everyone receives an equal salary (Venturi 33). These ideas came to fruition when Howard read the bestseller Looking Backward, by Edward Bellamy, about a man who slept from 1887 to 1900 – only to wake up and find himself in a new society where industry regrouped into a cooperative trust … (and) competition is replaced by centralized planning. Later, Howard published

his Garden Cities of Tomorrow, where he outlined his idea of the ideal utopian society. This Garden City was to be an ideal urban society of Three Magnets. It was created as a means of superseding capitalism and creating a civilization based on cooperation (Venturi 24). It represented a synthesis of town (city) and country, (two of the Magnets) where the town offered excitement, high wages, and employment, but also high prices and poor living conditions; the country … offers physical space, but is also backward and “no fun”. It was a middle ground between two extremes and had the qualities of being compact, efficient, healthful, and beautiful all at the same time. The city wasn’t without its flaws though. The third Magnet seemed the hardest to come by. It was the pinnacle of all of his work; that Garden City, whose promise of a better life would be the basis...
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