Urban Revisions: Current Projects for the Public Realm

Elizabeth A. T. Smith, Author, Yitzchak Ed. Frank, Author, Richard Sennett, With
Elizabeth A. T. Smith, Author, Yitzchak Ed. Frank, Author, Richard Sennett, With MIT Press (MA) $29.95 (195p) ISBN 978-0-262-69173-4
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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This book accompanies an exhibition of drawings, photographs and models illustrating current responses to the bankrupt ideals of post-war urban renewal. The show will travel to Montreal; Berkeley, Calif.; and Des Moines, Iowa, but it starts in Los Angeles, that classic example of modernism run amok at the expense of humanism. It is also a classic example of the subservience to the automobile. In the most fascinating of five accessible and illuminating essays, Mike Davis (City of Quartz) notes ``by 1970 more than one third of the surface area of the Los Angeles region was dedicated to car-related uses (freeways, streets, parking lots, and driveways.)'' More than any other single factor, the sociologists, urban planners, artists and architects in this volume rebel against the car culture, not only against the highway projects that destroyed neighborhoods but also the attitude that made getting out of the city at high speeds an ultimate good. Along with it they have jettisoned the godling approach to urban renewal: one person's utopian vision has been replaced by the conjunction of various professionals, a new attention to the realities of topography, and the input of the community, making it the ultimate interactive art. Unfortunately, for a volume that stresses a kind of common-sense design, it lacks any itself: the nearly unreadable type size, the dearth of captions, the exile of some color pictures to the well and the inevitable po-mo spliced typefaces require a determined reader. (Sept.)
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