The City After The Automobile: Past, Present, And Futureby Moshe Safdie, Wendy Kohn, Gerald D Mcknight
In an age of virtual offices, urban flight, and planned gated communities, are cities becoming obsolete? In this passionate manifesto, Moshe Safdie argues that as crucibles for creative, social, and political interaction, vital cities are an organic and necessary part of human civilization. If we are to rescue them from dispersal and decay, we must first revise our definition of what constitutes a city.
Unlike many who believe that we must choose between cities and suburbs, between mass transit and highways, between monolithic highrises and panoramic vistas, Safdie envisions a way to have it all. Effortless mobility throughout a region of diverse centers, residential communities, and natural open spaces is the key to restoring the rich public life that cities once provided while honoring our profound desire for privacy, flexibility, and freedom. With innovations such as transportation nodes, elevated moving sidewalks, public utility cars, and buildings designed to maximize daylight, views, and personal interaction, Safdie's proposal challenges us all to create a more satisfying and humanistic environment.
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 horizontallywill provide easy movement between buildings. Regional transportation will be based on "U-cars"publicly owned carlike vehiclesthat 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.
- Basic Books
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- 1 ED
- 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.
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