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Rethinking the American City

An International Dialogue

Edited by Miles Orvell and Klaus Benesch. Foreword by Dolores Hayden

Publication Year: 2013

Whether struggling in the wake of postindustrial decay or reinventing themselves with new technologies and populations, cities have once again moved to the center of intellectual and political concern. Rethinking the American City brings together leading scholars from a range of disciplines to examine an array of topics that illuminate the past, present, and future of cities.

Rethinking the American City offers a lively and fascinating survey of contemporary thinking about cities in a transnational context. Utilizing an innovative format, each chapter opens with an iconic image and includes a brief and provocative essay on a single topic followed by an extended dialogue among all the essayists. Topics range from energy use, design, and digital media to transportation systems and housing to public art, urban ruins, and futurist visions. By engaging with key contemporary concerns—public and private space, sustainability, ethnic and racial divisions, and technology—this volume illuminates how global society has imagined American urban life.

Contributors: Klaus Benesch, Dolores Hayden, David M. Lubin, Malcolm McCullough, Jeffrey L. Meikle, David E. Nye, Miles Orvell, Andrew Ross, Mabel O. Wilson, Albena Yaneva.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Dolores Hayden

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pp. vii-x

In the past two or three decades, researchers from many academic disciplines have explored the history of the built environment, enlarging the history of architecture from the aesthetic study of individual works by well-known architects to the economic, political, social, and cultural analysis of ordinary buildings. Ordinary buildings are shaped by many...

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Miles Orvell and Klaus Benesch

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pp. xi-xviii

As early as 1903, the German sociologist Georg Simmel defined urban spaces as sites of increased human interdependence and interconnection, where “the relationships and concerns of the typical metropolitan resident are so manifold and complex that . . . their relationships and activities intertwine with one another into a many-membered organism.”1 To study ...

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1 Energy

David E. Nye

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pp. 1-28

Just five moments provide a capsule history of the role of energy in American urban transportation. Imagine, first, an image of late nineteenth-century Broadway, in New York City, with parallel tracks, on one of which is an electric streetcar and on the other a horse-drawn car. The second moment is on a busy New York street corner, where cars, pedestrians, and ...

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2 Sustainability

Andrew Ross

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pp. 29-48

The abject failure of international leaders to reach binding emission- reductions targets in 2009 at the United Nations Climate Summit in Copenhagen, in 2010 in Cancun, and in 2011 in Durban has compounded the despair that thoughtful people now feel about the future. Even if the political obstacles to carbon policy making were to rapidly dissolve, many...

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3 The Multicultural City

Mabel O. Wilson

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pp. 49-70

In a sixth-floor apartment of a twenty-one-story residential high-rise, my home office desktop sits in front of a ten-foot-long horizontal window that looks onto Manhattan’s scenic Riverside Drive. As I work, my gaze often shifts back and forth between layers of windows that clutter my computer screen to rustic views of Riverside Park and the Hudson River beyond. For...

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4 Ruins

Miles Orvell

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pp. 71-92

What is a ruin? Anything in the built environment can fall into ruins: from houses to Main Street stores, from office buildings to factories, from infrastructure (railroad lines and highways) to utility plants, from gas stations to shopping centers and malls to whole cities (Detroit is the most obvious example, but also ghost towns)....

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5 Aesthetic Space

David M. Lubin

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pp. 93-118

On a mild, spring-like morning in February 2005, I attended a brunch in New York City hosted by a friend whose rooftop apartment overlooks Central Park. We were there to witness the opening moments of an art installation by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The Gates. At an appointed time, workers stationed along the park’s myriad footpaths unfurled hundreds ...

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6 Designing the City

Albena Yaneva

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pp. 119-142

In 2001, I began an ethnography of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Rotterdam, headed by Rem Koolhaas. Early on in my work, Rem gave me a tour of the office, and the first thing he showed me was the Whitney table. “This is the project of the extension of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. . . this is a table of...

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7 Mobility

Klaus Benesch

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pp. 143-166

What do the Baltimore/Washington International and Chicago O’Hare Airports, California's controversial High Speed Rail, the new hub of Florence’s TAV, and the contest-winning models of Transbay Terminal in San Francisco and a new Union Station in Chicago all have in common? If juxtaposed, what are the narratives that unfold from their bold visions of...

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8 The Digital City

Malcolm McCollough

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pp. 167-192

Urban computing has come of age.1 The era of handheld mobile computing brings situated technologies too. Today’s new phenomena of interpersonal navigation, environmental sensing, big data, and grids of smart things have implications at the scale of the city. Recent examples abound: for example, Velib and Zipcar in transportation, Foursquare and Layar...

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9 Future City

Jeffrey L. Meikle

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pp. 193-214

Future city. The very words have a promising ring, evoking optimism and more particularly a faith in progress—whether the ever-onward-and-upward evolutionary variety of the late nineteenth century or the rational planning invoked by countless utopian visionaries during the twentieth century. Rows of skyscrapers set in healthful green space; separate zones of...

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pp. 215-218

Miles Orvell: Let’s now spend a few minutes with some final reflections on what may have emerged as we’ve thought about things during the last two days, which feels like about two weeks, mentally, and has been quite fascinating. The talks we’ve heard have been so very different, and yet I think we’ve all sensed, at times, the coalescence...


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pp. 219-222


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pp. 223-232


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pp. 233-244


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pp. 245-246

E-ISBN-13: 9780812209013
E-ISBN-10: 081220901X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812245615
Print-ISBN-10: 081224561X

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 10 illus.
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 872122186
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Rethinking the American City

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Subject Headings

  • City planning -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Cities and towns -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Architecture and society -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
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