The City as a Work of Art: London, Paris, Vienna

Donald J. Olsen, Author Yale University Press $75 (346p) ISBN 978-0-300-02870-6
Three European capitalsLondon, Paris and Viennawere each deliberately conceived as a unified work of art, designed by 19th century planners and architects to reinforce dominant classes' values and serve their leisure pursuits. With this provocative thesis, Vassar history professor Olsen opens new vistas on urban environments in a delightful and gripping, richly illustrated social history. London's Regent Street served simultaneously as a north-south route to relieve traffic congestion and a stage set for the wealthy to display their clothes; its completion drove up rents by one-third. Louis Napoleon's radical surgery on Paris gave it a look of standardized regularity, but Olsen disputes the popular view that the aim was to prevent Parisian uprisings by breaking up working-class districts. The laying out of Vienna's Ringstrasse attracted Austria's upper-middle class to the capital where they could flaunt their fashion, art and money in a city that installed adequate sewage systems and gas lighting decades after other capitals. (September)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1986
Release date: 09/01/1986
Paperback - 346 pages - 978-0-300-04212-2
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