In "The Geography of Nowhere," James Howard Kunstler declared suburbia "a tragic landscape of cartoon architecture, junked cities, and ravaged countryside" and put himself at the heart of a fierce debate over how we will live in twenty-first century America. Now, Kunstler turns his wickedly mordant and astute eye on urban life both in America and across the world. From classical Rome to the "gigantic hairball" of contemporary Atlanta, he offers a far-reaching discourse on the history and current state of urban life.
"The City in Mind" tells the story of urban design and how the architectural makeup of a city directly influences its culture as well as its success. From the ingenious architectural design of Louis-Napoleon's renovation of Paris to the bloody collision of cultures that occurred when Cortes conquered the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, from the grandiose architectural schemes of Hitler and Albert Speer to the meanings behind the ludicrous spectacle of Las Vegas, Kunstler opens up a new dialogue on the development and effects of urban construction. In his investigations, he discovers American communities in the Sunbelt and Southwest alienated from each other and themselves, Northeastern cities caught between their initial civic construction and our current car-obsessed society, and a disparate Europe with its mix of pre-industrial creativity, and war-marked reminders of the twentieth century.
Expanding on ideas first discussed in Jane Jacobs' seminal work, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," Kunstler looks to Europe to discover what is constant and enduring in cities at their greatest, and at the same time, how a city's design can be directly linked toits decline. In these dazzling excursions he finds the reasons that America got lost in its suburban wilderness and locates the pathways in culture that might lead to a civic revival here. Kunstler's examination of these cities is at once a concise history of their urban lives and a detailed criticism of how those histories have either aided or hindered the social and civil progress of the cities' occupants. By turns dramatic and wildly comic, and always authoritative, "The City in Mind," is an exceptional glimpse into the urban condition. [via]