American urban form--the spaces, places, and boundaries that define city life--has been evolving since the first settlements of colonial days. The changing patterns of houses, buildings, streets, parks, pipes and wires, wharves, railroads, highways, and airports reflect changing patterns of the social, political, and economic processes that shape the city. In this book, Sam Bass Warner and Andrew Whittemore map more than three hundred years of the American city through the evolution of urban form. They do this by offering an illustrated history of “the City”--a hypothetical city that exemplifies the American city’s transformation from village to merchant seaport, industrial city, multicentered metropolis, and, finally, regional metropolis that participates in both the local and the global. The book thereby offers a yardstick against which readers can measure the history of their city.
Warner and Whittemore have constructed their hypothetical City from the histories of Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, focusing on commonalities that make up key patterns in American urban development. In an engaging text accompanied by Whittemore’s detailed, meticulous drawings, they chart the City’s changing boundaries, densities, building styles, transportation infrastructures, and population patterns. Planning for the future of cities, they remind us, requires an understanding of the forces that shaped the city’s past; these are the tools of urban change. The city’s protean, ever-changing nature offers each generation a fresh chance to reform (and re-form) it.
About the Author
Sam Bass Warner, noted urban historian and Visiting Professor of Urban History at MIT, is the author of Streetcar Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston, 1870-1900; The Private City: Philadelphia in Three Periods of Its Growth; The Urban Wilderness: A History of the American City; To Dwell Is to Garden: A History of Boston’s Community Gardens; and other books.
“American Urban Form stands out as a concise narration of the various dynamics that shaped the physical form of the American metropolis. The book is highly engaging in its technical descriptions, which are supported by excellent hand drawings by Whittemore.” — Garyfalia Palaiologou, The Journal of Space Syntax
“In this illuminating book, Warner and Whittemore have teamed to produce a richly visual, extraordinarily conceptual view of urbanization in the US.” — J. F. Bauman, Choice
“With its rich narrative and outstanding visual representation of urban form changes, this concise book succeeds in making the reader experience the American city through time and understand the forces behind its evolution. The hypothetical city becomes real through engaging and detailed accounts of events, spaces, and social interactions.”
—Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Professor of Urban Planning, UCLA
“American Urban Form—assaying Boston, New York, and Philadelphia—merits acclaim. Imagining our urban past, present, and future, Sam Bass Warner and Andrew Whittemore frame their lively narrative with twenty-first century sensibilities as they plumb the near and more distant past. Assembling chronologically organized big-picture views, the co-authors explain the shaping forces which created assorted urban forms. This superb book, to its credit, features Whittemore's hand-crafted and sumptuously detailed urban landscapes, best thought of as a luminous historical exhibition. A wide range of readers—architects, artists, planners, historians, journalists, lawyers, mayors, legislators, policy makers, and general readers—surely will learn much from this book.”
—Michael H. Ebner, Lake Forest College
“This book represents a fresh approach to a perennial problem—arguably the perennial problem—in urban history. It will surely be, as the authors intend, a very useful and enlightening book for planners and design professionals seeking to learn from a single volume the most important elements of American urban history. The range of detailed, accurate, and insightful knowledge the authors display from the colonial city to the present is simply astonishing. And I believe the book will generate much useful comment and debate among urban historians about how to conceptualize and to present our field.”
—Robert L. Fishman, Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning, Taubman College, University of Michigan
CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2012