Building the Nation: Americans Write about Their Architecture, Their Cities, and Their Landscape

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Moving away from the standard survey that takes readers from architect to architect and style to style, Building the Nation: Americans Write About Their Architecture, Their Cities, and Their Landscape suggests a wholly new way of thinking about the history of America's built environment and how Americans have related to it.

Through an enormous range of American voices, some famous and some obscure, and across more than two centuries of history, this anthology shows that the struggle to imagine what kinds of buildings and land use would best suit the nation pervaded all classes of Americans and was not the purview only of architects and designers. Some of the nation's finest writers, including Mark Twain, W. E. B. Du Bois, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Lewis Mumford, E. B. White, and John McPhee, are here, contemplating the American way of building. Equally important are those eloquent but little-known voices found in American newspapers and magazines which insistently wondered what American architecture and environmental planning should look like.

Building the Nation also insists that American architecture can be understood only as both a result of and a force in shaping American social, cultural, and political developments. In so doing, this anthology demonstrates how central the built environment has been to our definition of what it is to be American and reveals seven central themes that have repeatedly animated American writers over the course of the past two centuries: the relationship of American architecture to European architecture, the nation's diverse regions, the place and shape of nature in American life, the design of cities, the explosion of the suburbs, the power of architecture to reform individuals, and the role of tradition in a nation dedicated to being perennially young.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This anthology will undoubtedly open new paths of inquiry into the making, shaping, preservation, and use of the American landscape."—Daniel Bluestone, University of Virginia

"Some anthologies seem slapdash or opportunistic; others are labors of love, informed by a mastery of a particular field and a passion for sharing the heterogeneous richness of their documents. Building the Nation is happily one of the latter. . . . Vastly useful."—Preservation

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812237344
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/30/2003
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Conn is Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University. He is the author of Museums and American Intellectual Life, 1876-1926 and Metropolitan Philadelphia: Living with the Presence of the Past, the latter also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press. Max Page is Associate Professor of Architecture and History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the author of The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900-1940.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Introduction: American Architecture? 1
1 Excerpt from On the Architecture of America 9
2 Excerpt from On the Arts 10
3 Architecture: Its Alleged Degeneracy 12
4 Excerpt from American Architecture 14
5 Excerpt from A Public Building 17
6 Architecture Through Oppression 22
7 The Point of View 24
8 Excerpt from The Big Money 26
9 "Melting Pot of Architecture" 27
10 Excerpt from The Architecture of the Future 30
11 Excerpt from The Tragedy of American Architecture 33
12 Excerpt from What Is 'American' in Architecture and Design? Notes Toward an Aesthetic of Process 37
13 Towers of Mammon 41
14 Tomorrow's Ruins Today 43
Ch. 2 "They Do Things Better in Europe": American View the World 47
15 Letters from Paris 53
16 Excerpt from "Description of the City of Morocco" 55
17 Excerpt from Sketch of Amsterdam 57
18 Excerpt from Letters from Abroad to Kindred at Home 59
19 Excerpt from Mentone, Cairo, and Corfu 61
20 Excerpts from The Innocents Abroad 64
21 Excerpt from Italian Villas and Their Gardens 66
22 Excerpt from "The German Way of Making Better Cities" 69
23 Excerpt from Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s 73
24 Excerpt from Architecture and Life in the U.S.S.R. 96
25 Excerpt from Recent Architecture Abroad 79
26 Excerpt from Israel: Young Blood and Old 81
27 Excerpt from The International Style After Half a Century 84
28 Manifest Destiny 87
Ch. 3 So Glorious a Landscape: Shaping Nature the American Way 93
29 Antiquities of Ohio 97
30 Pine Lands of New Jersey 99
31 Excerpt from The Pine Barrens 100
32 Excerpt from A Tour on the Prairies 102
33 Review of Andrew Jackson Downing, "Landscape Gardening and Rural Architecture in America" 106
34 Excerpt from The Pennsylvania Coal Region 112
35 Our National Shabbiness 114
36 Architecture of the TVA 118
37 Last Chance to Save the Everglades 120
38 Excerpt from Preliminary Glance at an American Landscape 123
39 Excerpt from The Politics of Beauty 125
40 Excerpt from God's Own Junkyard 130
41 Abolish the White House Lawn 133
42 The Trouble with Wilderness 137
Ch. 4 One Nation, of Many Parts: Regionalism and the Built Environment 141
43 Excerpt from Topographical Sketches of the County of Essex 147
44 Excerpt from An Account of Moravian Settlements 149
45 Excerpt from Domestic Architecture 152
46 Excerpt from The Souls of Black Folk 155
47 Excerpt from Highways and Byways of the South 159
48 Excerpt from The Abomination of Cities 163
49 J. W. Hoover, excerpt from "House and Village Types of the Southwest as Conditioned by Aridity," 1935; and Talbot Hamlin, excerpt from "What Makes It American? Architecture in the Southwest and West," 1939 165
50 Excerpt from Grandfather's Store 175
51 Excerpt from Look What's Happened to California 174
52 Why Is This an American Style House? 177
53 Show Me the Way to Go Home 179
54 Excerpt from A Vision of New Fields 181
55 Bulldozing Our Sense of Place 184
Ch. 5 Urbanism, Real and Imagined 187
56 Description of Philadelphia 187
57 Description of the City of Washington 193
58 Excerpt from The Plan of San Francisco 197
59 Excerpt from The Problem of the Twentieth Century City 200
60 Excerpt from Colorado and Its Capital 203
61 Excerpt from What a Great City Might Be - A Lesson from the White City 206
62 Excerpt from Art and Railway Stations 210
63 Excerpt from Improvement in City Life: Aesthetic Progress 212
64 The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study 215
65 Louis Sullivan, excerpt from "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered," 1896; and Henry James, excerpt from The American Scene, 1907 221
66 The Terrible Super-City 227
67 Excerpt from Magic Motorways 228
68 Excerpt from Here Is New York 231
69 America Day by Day (L'Amerique au jour le jour) 236
70 Downtown Is for People 237
71 Fear of the City, 1783-1983 240
72 Excerpt from The New American Ghetto 243
73 Excerpt from A City on a Hill 246
74 Excerpt from Las Vegas, Tis of Thee 250
75 On Edge, Again 252
Ch. 6 Taming the Crabgrass Frontier: The Triumph of the Suburbs 257
76 Anonymous, "Landscape-Gardening: Llewellen Park," 1857; and Anonymous, "Llewellyn Park," 1871 263
77 Excerpt from Letter to the Riverside Improvement Company 265
78 Excerpt from Suburban Homes on the West Jersey Railroad 268
79 Excerpt from Suburban Homes: A Plea for Privacy in Home Life 271
80 Christine Frederick, excerpt from "Is Suburban Living a Delusion"? 1928; and Ethel Longworth Swift, excerpt from "In Defense of Suburbia," 1928 273
81 Excerpt from Does Your City Suffer from Suburbanitis? 279
82 Excerpt from The Big Change in Suburbia 284
83 Excerpt from Are Cities Un-American? 289
84 Excerpt from The Feminine Mystique 292
85 Excerpt from No Place Like Home 295
86 Excerpt from Home from Nowhere 301
Ch. 7 Better Buildings, Better People: Architecture and Social Reform 307
87 Excerpt from American Notes 311
88 Excerpt from The Shakers at Lebanon 315
89 Excerpt from College Edifices and Their Relation to Education 320
90 Excerpt from The American Woman's Home 324
91 Excerpt from Pullman: A Social Study 328
92 Excerpt from Mill Architecture 335
93 Excerpt from Beautifying the Ugly Things 336
94 Excerpt from Giving Carnegie Libraries 338
95 Excerpt from City Planning in Justice to the Working Population 342
96 Excerpt from That 'One Third of a Nation' 345
97 The Case History of a Failure 348
98 The Threat and Promise of Urban Redevelopment in New Haven 348
99 John Edgar Wideman, "Doing Time, Marking Race," 1995; and Peter Annin, "Inside the New Alcatraz," 1998 355
Ch. 8 Monuments and Memory: Building and Protecting the American Past 361
100 Description of an Indian Mound 367
101 Excerpt from Church Architecture in New-York 368
102 Washington's Examples 372
103 Excerpt from The Lack of Old Homes in America 373
104 Excerpt from A Great Battle Park 374
105 Excerpt from Preserving the Landmarks 376
106 Excerpt from Colonial Williamsburg 378
107 The Disappearance of Pennsylvania Station 381
108 Destroying the Past by 'Development' 387
109 Herbert J. Gans, excerpt from "Preserving Everyone's Noo Yawk," 1975; and Ada Louise Huxtable, excerpt from "Preserving Noo Yawk Landmarks," 1975 389
110 The Vietnam Memorial 392
111 Excerpt from The House That Ruth's Father Built 396
112 How a Brand-New Development Came by its Rich History 397
113 Excerpt from Old Baltimore Row Houses Fall Before the Wrecking Ball 400
114 New War Memorial Is Shrine to Sentiment 404
Thematic Index 409
Acknowledgments 411
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