The City after the Automobile: A Radical Vision of Design, Technology and Transportation for the Twenty-First Century

The City after the Automobile: A Radical Vision of Design, Technology and Transportation for the Twenty-First Century

by Moshe Safdie, Wendy Kohn
     
 

In the aftermath of the automobile, with struggling downtowns, spreading suburbs, and blooming private gated communities, are traditional cities becoming obsolete? In The City After the Automobile, internationally acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie passionately comes to the city's defense. Arguing that vital cities are fundamental to civilized society and culture,…  See more details below

Overview

In the aftermath of the automobile, with struggling downtowns, spreading suburbs, and blooming private gated communities, are traditional cities becoming obsolete? In The City After the Automobile, internationally acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie passionately comes to the city's defense. Arguing that vital cities are fundamental to civilized society and culture, Safdie and his colleague Wendy Kohn describe how we can rescue cities from their current threat of demise. Today we face a choice: suburban lives of total dependence on our cars or increasingly unworkable urban lifestyles of endless traffic jams, eroding pedestrian street life, and mounting parking problems. Unlike those who want to turn back the clock to pre-industrial enclaves or those who propose science-fiction-like "cyber cities," Safdie believes we can solve our present dilemmas, preserve the best of our urban history, and create future cities of strong public life, cultural richness, and physical beauty. In vivid prose, The City After the Automobile paints a revolutionary vision of the future, one that integrates innovative architecture, technology, and policy to lead us toward richer and more humanistic places to work and live.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Forty-three percent of the world's 5.5 billion inhabitants live in cities, many of them, says architect Safdie, regional mega-cities that are growing recklessly, with traffic congestion that daily threatens the environment. Safdie, who achieved prominence for his futuristic Habitat housing complex at Montreal's Expo '67, blames a lack of regional planning and the unexpected impact of the automobile for our deteriorating cities. In the first two parts of his book, Safdie treads familiar territory-noting the dispersal of affluent families to the suburbs that left empty downtowns and contributed to social polarization, monolithic office buildings that dwarf pedestrians, and the vast, unsafe garages in airports and commercial buildings. Along the way he touches on the role of the architect, several of his own projects that were derailed by shortsighted clients and the need for buildings to take best advantage of their natural sites. In the last third of the book, Safdie describes his vision of a new kind of urban center, one that accommodates the beauties of its particular topography and is a central spine of intense activity. He also proposes a new method of transportation, replacing private ownership of cars with a pool of government-owned electric vehicles that would be at drivers' disposal by the hour, day, week or month. These Utility cars would be instantly available from a storage depot and left there after use. But radical ideas such as this are best bolstered by practical details for implementation, which Safdie fails to offer.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Forty-three percent of the world's 5.5 billion inhabitants live in cities, many of them, says architect Safdie, regional mega-cities that are growing recklessly, with traffic congestion that daily threatens the environment. Safdie, who achieved prominence for his futuristic Habitat housing complex at Montreal's Expo '67, blames a lack of regional planning and the unexpected impact of the automobile for our deteriorating cities. In the first two parts of his book, Safdie treads familiar territorynoting the dispersal of affluent families to the suburbs that left empty downtowns and contributed to social polarization, monolithic office buildings that dwarf pedestrians, and the vast, unsafe garages in airports and commercial buildings. Along the way he touches on the role of the architect, several of his own projects that were derailed by shortsighted clients and the need for buildings to take best advantage of their natural sites. In the last third of the book, Safdie describes his vision of a new kind of urban center, one that accommodates the beauties of its particular topography and is a central spine of intense activity. He also proposes a new method of transportation, replacing private ownership of cars with a pool of government-owned electric vehicles that would be at drivers' disposal by the hour, day, week or month. These Utility cars would be instantly available from a storage depot and left there after use. But radical ideas such as this are best bolstered by practical details for implementation, which Safdie fails to offer. (June)
NY Times Book Review
. . .deliver[s] an important message.
Kirkus Reviews
Some contemporary urban realities are confronted head-on here, while others are ignored, making it difficult to decide whether Safdie's ideas are visionary or merely silly.

Much of this book is an erudite survey of familiar ground. The automobile has undoubtedly reshaped urban topography, with the flight to suburbia producing the need for more roads, parking, and cars. Accompanied by a diminished concern for public spaces, this has turned architects, once the planners of communities, into designers of individual sites. Habitat '67 creator Safdie (Architecture/Harvard) is not blinded by nostalgia for bygone days when parks and plazas were the shared center of city life, however. He recognizes that Americans are devoted to the convenience and independence of travel by automobile, and he envisions a transportation system that will retain these qualities while also revitalizing urban areas. Within his imagined city, "conveyors"—essentially elevators that move horizontally—will provide easy movement between buildings. Regional transportation will be based on "U-cars"—publicly owned carlike vehicles—that can be picked up and dropped off as needed at depots located next to conveyor stops and rail stations. (High-speed trains will link cities.) Pedestrian walkways and open spaces in the core of the city will be protected from the elements by gigantic, retractable glass roofs, optimizing conditions for enjoying public life. While creating an urban utopia without completely removing automobiles, however, Safdie is amazingly obtuse about the political and economic values that he recognizes are at the heart of Americans' love for cars. A culture that worships private car ownership is not fertile ground for public spaces involving massive government expenditure and administration, and to imagine that the affluent will be willing to pay the necessary taxes is more fanciful than conveyors or U-cars.

Architects should be dreamers, but we need more from them than castles in the air.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465098361
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
08/28/1997
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
8.08(w) x 5.79(h) x 0.79(d)

Meet the Author

Gerald D. McKnight is professor of history at Hood College, where he is chair of the History and Political Science Department.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >