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American Urban Planning Since 1850

Summary and Keywords

As places of dense habitation, cities have always required coordination and planning. City planning has involved the design and construction of large-scale infrastructure projects to provide basic necessities such as a water supply and drainage. By the 1850s, immigration and industrialization were fueling the rise of big cities, creating immense, collective problems of epidemics, slums, pollution, gridlock, and crime. From the 1850s to the 1900s, both local governments and utility companies responded to this explosive physical and demographic growth by constructing a “networked city” of modern technologies such as gaslight, telephones, and electricity. Building the urban environment also became a wellspring of innovation in science, medicine, and administration. In 1909–1910, a revolutionary idea—comprehensive city planning—opened a new era of professionalization and institutionalization in the planning departments of city halls and universities. Over the next thirty-five years, however, wars and depression limited their influence.

From 1945 to 1965, in contrast, represents the golden age of formal planning. During this unprecedented period of peace and prosperity, academically trained experts played central roles in the modernization of the inner cities and the sprawl of the suburbs. But the planners’ clean-sweep approach to urban renewal and the massive destruction caused by highway construction provoked a revolt of the grassroots. Beginning in the Watts district of Los Angeles in 1965, mass uprisings escalated over the next three years into a national crisis of social disorder, racial and ethnic inequality, and environmental injustice. The postwar consensus of theory and practice was shattered, replaced by a fragmented profession ranging from defenders of top-down systems of computer-generated simulations to proponents of advocacy planning from the bottom up. Since the late 1980s, the ascendency of public-private partnerships in building the urban environment has favored the planners promoting systems approaches, who promise a future of high-tech “smart cities” under their complete control.

Keywords: Cities, suburbs, metropolitan regions, city planning, public policy, public works, urban housing, highways

In 1900, a new generation of reformers called “Progressives” coined the term “city planning” to define something different from previous conscious efforts to build the urban environment. Since ancient times, every place of dense habitation has required some coordinated and collective action. City residents had to design and construct large-scale projects to provide basic necessities of water supplies and drainage, roads and bridges, and harbors and markets. They have also engaged in laying out utopian and realistic street grids of land use for new townsites.

But these plans were piecemeal compared to the Progressives’ conception of the city in holistic terms that turned space and society into a living organism. Believing that physical conditions shaped society and culture, these reformers conceived of grand metropolitan plans of beauty, efficiency, and order. This modern, comprehensive approach to planning remains the ideal of professional experts, although it has rarely been achieved. Parallel to the conscious creation of formal plans there have always been informal approaches to city building. From designing domestic architecture to laying out entire shantytowns, marginalized people produced urban space at the center as well as in the suburbs. City planning in the United States since 1850, then, has been marked by the historic watershed of the Progressive Era and the inexorable contestation between top-down and bottom-up approaches. It has also been a part of a much larger, transatlantic conversation on the urban ideal.

The State of the Art: 1850

By the 1850s, metropolitan New York City was fast approaching one million residents. Immigration and industrialization fueled the rise of many other urban places along the Eastern seaboard and inland across the Great Lakes to Chicago and St. Louis. City building in the United States and Europe was not only a topic of constant political debate, but also the focus of a growing field of expertise in engineering, sanitation, architecture, and landscaping. The sheer scale and pace of urban growth created immense, collective problems of epidemics, slums, gridlock, pollution, crime, and disorder.

The experts proposed plans on a piecemeal, incremental basis to address each specific physical shortcoming and moral evil of city life. A fearful series of cholera outbreaks put sanitation and public health at the top of civic agendas. Prior to the ascendency of germ theories of disease in the 1890s, doctors relied on miasma theories of putrefaction, or bad smells. Their common sense prescription was to cleanup the stenches and filth. Led by London’s scientists, sanitary officials also linked the spread of cholera to water supplies contaminated by human wastes. Engineers in European and American cities including New York, Boston, and Chicago presented plans to construct drinking supply and sewer systems of water management. Their blueprints mapped reservoirs, aqueducts, pumping stations, and pipes and drains on an unprecedented scale. At the same time, policymakers expanded the power of the state over daily life in the name of the public welfare. City governments, for instance, required property owners to hook up their homes and buildings to the water and sewer systems. They also took the first steps toward the professionalization of public administration by establishing fire, police, and public works departments. In most cases, however, the provision of essential urban services was left to privately owned utility companies operating under special franchise contracts with municipal governments. In addition to offering gas lighting, streetcars, and telegrams to middle-class consumers, private firms built and operated the waterworks in many places.

American Urban Planning Since 1850

Figure 1. Plan for the improvement of the Central Park, adopted by the Commissioners, June 3rd, 1856. Boston Public Library, Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection, 06_01_010785.

Landscape artists and architects, moreover, started meeting the demands of city dwellers for open, green space and outdoor recreation by drawing plans for public parks in the center and exclusive enclaves in the suburbs. The work of New York City’s Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vau trace one of the taproots of comprehensive city planning. In 1858, they won a design competition for a 780 acre/316 hectare site just north of the fast-moving expansion of the built-up area from the bottom of the island. The “Greensward Plan” embodied a pastoral ideal of nature and an equally formal order of decorum. The construction of Central Park over the next several years also illustrated the clash between formal and informal planning because the site was occupied by several thousand residents living in rural-like communities with colorful names like Seneca Village and Nanny Goat Hill. Portrayed in pejorative terms as “filthy shantytowns” by the park’s promoters, their residents were poor but hard-working immigrants and African Americans. They built their own houses and planted garden plots on what was previously farmland. These so-called squatters were evicted in the name of civic progress and social order.1

The Evolution from Gilded Age Historicism to Progressive Era Modernism: 1850s–1909

From the 1850s into the 1900s, local governments and private companies operating as public utilities built a “networked city” of infrastructure technologies.2 Formal planning was often large-scale, albeit disjointed, as each street railway company, municipal sewer department, and state health board worked independently of each other. During the Gilded Age, nonetheless, the search for better ways to resolve the industrial city’s problems engendered innovation and opportunity in technology, science, public administration, and business management. City building became a wellspring of invention, including electric lighting to replace fire-prone gas and kerosene lamps; cable and trolley cars to replace horses; and telephones to replace telegraph messenger boys. Big national manufacturing companies emerged that specialized in supplying the hardware and knowhow for these urban services as well as spinning off complete home systems of central heating, plumbing fixtures, and kitchen equipment.

During this period of step-by-step planning to meet the needs of cities exploding in population and size, the professionals, businessmen, and tradesmen engaged in this evolutionary process underwent their own metamorphoses. Led by engineers, they became more college-educated and organized into associations that increased the transatlantic flow of information and best practice. Awe-inspiring public works created a fascination in popular culture with the technological sublime of mastering the environment. Taking fourteen years to construct, the Brooklyn Bridge was hailed as a wonder of the world when it opened on May 24, 1883 to great fanfare. The well-deserved hero-of-the-day was its chief engineer, Washington Roebling, the son of its German immigrant designer, John Augustus Roebling, who died in 1869 from injuries suffered on the construction site. The unsung hero was the chief engineers’ wife, Emily Warren Roebling, who did the math to make sure the inventive cable-style suspension bridge could hold the expected traffic loads.3 Many other cities boasted about their big technology projects: sanitation and ship canals, railroad terminals, maritime dock facilities, waterworks pumping stations, and underground subway tunnels.

In 1869, speculators hired Olmsted and Vaux to plan Riverside, Illinois, a model suburb near Chicago on land along the heavily wooded Des Plaines River. Since it had been recently crossed by a railroad, commuting times were cut to a half-hour ride in comfort. Riverside’s developers planned to lure well-to-do families to the countryside by providing them with all the modern amenities of the networked city. In addition to the famous planners’ park-like townsite map, Riverside had a shopping arcade, gas-lights, water mains, and paved streets and sidewalks.4 Such examples from the top down of virtually utopian residential and industrial communities were rare compared to much more common, vernacular architecture from the bottom up. Local subdividers, homebuilders, craftsmen, and do-it-yourselfers were responsible for constructing most of the neighborhoods in the cities’ outer rings and in the railroad and the streetcar suburbs. Homeowners’ front yards and shopkeepers’ storefront facades along commercial strips added to the preponderance of informal planning in the production and experience of urban space. These landscapes reflected the infinite variety of individual creativity, while their formal architectural structures expressed the era’s fashion of historic revivals such as Romanesque and Gothic. Outward sprawl was matched by new levels of concentration at the center, where experts used new materials such as steel I-beams and large plate-glass windows to erect ever taller skyscrapers.

Although germ theories of disease had revolutionary implications, they initially reinforced traditional miasma theories and their emphasis on cleanliness. The American medical community took thirty years to recognize Louis Pasteur’s pioneering work in the 1860s and establish new public health institutions based on the life sciences of bacteriology and organic chemistry. During this long transitional period, water management planning in the cities remained fragmented and incremental. The job of laying mains and pipes usually lagged behind the pace of development at their outer edges. Like other networked technologies, urban water supply and sewer systems became standardized in their equipment and management.

The transformation of these critical necessities of city life, moreover, illuminates how the integration of science and technology helped foster the birth of comprehensive planning. Armed with microscopes and petri dishes, researchers identified bacteria that not only caused disease but also ones that rendered them harmless. Engineers starting building a new generation of water purification and sewage treatment plants based on bio-technologies that dramatically cut death rates. To reduce the toll from the nineteenth century’s most infectious germ, tuberculosis, they devised an ad hoc array of plans ranging from power plants and railroad engines to eliminate smoke, to suburban sanitariums to isolate the sick, homes redesigned to maximize air and light, and publicity campaigns to prohibit spitting.5

Public discourse on the city’s problems also generated novel ideas about metropolitan areas and the ways that these sprawling, urbanizing environments influenced society and culture. A second taproot of modern planning grew out of the parks and recreation movements to get back-to-nature, spawning civic improvement groups that lobbied for their favorite municipal monuments and outdoor art projects. They tended to emphasize the social, as opposed to the spatial, benefits of their plans to reform the urban environment, especially for children living in the slums of the inner city and the industrial suburbs. Middle-class women’s and men’s clubs, religious organizations, trade unions, and social settlement workers became spearheads of reform to upgrade the quality of daily life. In 1893, experts wove many strands of Gilded Age planning together in the creation of Chicago’s World’s Fair. Visited by one out of every five Americans, the imperial splendor of the formal Court of Honor in this make-believe “White City” impressed them as much as its dazzling displays of electricity, cornucopia of consumer goods, and titillations of popular amusements along the Midway Plaisance. The fairgrounds were exclusively for affluent whites to enjoy because Jim Crow policies barred African Americans from entering its gates and an admission ticket they could not afford kept poor people out.6

The Machine Age and the Organic City: 1909–1945

Fed by the success of the World’s Fair as a prototype of a future utopia, a notion gained momentum that the physical conditions and the social functions of real urban areas were interdependent parts of a natural system, an “Organic City.” A leading spirit of this reform idea and chief architect of the fair was Daniel H. Burnham. He and many other experts involved in making it a model of beauty, efficiency, and order concluded that comprehensive approaches to planning were needed to gain control of the physical metabolism and the social health of the urban ecology. They gradually included more and more civic improvements in blueprints of their urban ideal. Sixteen years later in 1909, a revolutionary breakthrough occurred when Burnham and his collaborator, Edward H. Bennett, published the monumental Plan of Chicago. With visionary color illustrations, Burnham and Bennett imagined the Chicago metropolis fifty years in the future. Plan of Chicago appeared the same year as the first National Conference on City Planning in Washington, DC; a year later a similar international meeting was held in London. In the wake of these seminal watersheds, comprehensive city planning by professional experts became institutionalized in university degree programs, city departments, and blue-ribbon commissions. Over the next thirty-five years, the formal role of the planner expanded over not only what academic theorists cast as the Organic City, but also the nature conservation and the social geography of entire metropolitan regions.7

American Urban Planning Since 1850

Figure 2. The 1909 Plan of Chicago, commonly referred to as the “Burnham Plan.” Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett. Plan of Chicago. Illustrator Jules Guérin. Chicago: Commercial Club of Chicago, 1909.

Burnham’s formal hierarchy of special purpose zones for the fairgrounds, and Olmsted’s landscape architecture for the parks surrounding it, inspired a ferment of reform to rebuild the cities. Progressives gained official approval to draw grand plans in a lengthening list of places stretching from Washington, DC to San Francisco, California, and beyond to the capital of the Philippines, Manila, which the United States had colonized after the Spanish-American War in 1898. Local politicians learned that they could build patronage armies and electoral majorities by sponsoring the construction of pieces of these visionary schemes. Real estate developers, moreover, learned that beauty paid, becoming lobbyists for more public parks because adjacent land values always went up. By the coming of World War I and the machine age of mass production, the new profession’s identity and goals were well established. “The new and significant fact for which this new term ‘city planning’ stands,” stated Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., in 1916, “is a growing perception of a city’s organic unity. . . . The ideal of a unified, intelligent, and purposeful control of the city’s entire development follows obviously and logically from the conception of the city as a social unity with its fate in its own hands.”8

In spite of the crescendo of appeals from this planner and his colleagues to put the fate of urban society in the hands of experts like themselves, few places implemented more than fragments of their grand designs. The examples were found in Cleveland, Denver, and Harrisburg, all of which redeveloped significant parts of their municipal and civic downtown areas. Perhaps their greatest achievement was the widespread enactment of municipal zoning codes that divided urban real estate into a hierarchy of residential, commercial, and industrial zones. The first zoning law was passed in Los Angeles in 1908, identifying certain parts of the city as residential and industrial districts. New York adopted the first comprehensive zoning law in 1916. Some Southern cities, including Baltimore, Richmond, Atlanta, Louisville, and New Orleans passed racially restrictive zoning codes between 1910 and 1918. Such Jim Crow statutes were eventually ruled unconstitutional in Buchanan v. Warley (1917). But zoning as a form of planning grew more popular, especially in the wake of Euclid v. Ambler (1926), which upheld the constitutionality of zoning.

The near universal demand of city residents and suburbanites alike to get back to nature also led to the fulfillment of many of their proposals for metropolitan-scale networks of recreational parks, nature preserves, and greenbelts. The Progressives’ conservation and planning ideas fused into a novel concept of the Organic City as a regional-scale ecology of natural resource and social demographic flows of energy. Advocates of regional planning, for example, envisioned high-voltage lines literally and figuratively linking remote hydroelectric dams, rural farms, and urban areas in bonds of mutual benefit. During the 1920s, however, a conservative majority put political brakes on civic improvement projects; the Great Depression of the 1930s restricted local funding of these public works; and World War II brought them to a virtual standstill.

In contrast, individual philanthropists, real estate developers, and trade unions funded plans to build models of the Anglo-American, suburban ideal during the interwar years. Housing reformers contributed to the construction of physical space that was designed to foster family unity, and community. To rekindle these traditional values, planners teamed up with social workers to create a modern solution to what they perceived as the city’s primary pathology: overcrowding in the city center. The Regional Planning Association of America (1923–1933), led by Clarence Stein, Benton MacKaye, Lewis Mumford, Frederick Ackerman, and Henry Wright, were among the leading proponents of deconcentration. In 1924, Stein, Wright, and Ackerman completed Sunnyside Gardens, a “garden city” planned community in Queens, New York. In 1929, Wright and Stein founded Radburn, New Jersey, as a suburban, garden city prototype for the motor age. These planners generally adopted a top-down, formal approach called the “neighborhood unit plan,” best exemplified by the Regional Plan of New York developed during the 1920s.9 The cell of the Organic City was structured around the neighborhood elementary school. It was the geographic and social nucleus of the community, surrounded by a ring of green space, a shopping mall, and single-family homes. Limited access roads into the cell protected its homogenous communities from invasive cancers of members of undesirable racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Private ownership and governance of this early example of a master-planned community ensured strict conformity to architectural guidelines and social segregation.10

American Urban Planning Since 1850

Figure 3. Plan of Radburn, New Jersey. Clarence Stein and Henry Wright, 1929.

The New Deal, moreover, ushered in the heyday of regional and national planning. From 1933 to 1945, the federal government became a seedbed of experiments in engineering the environment and society on an unprecedented scale. Regionalists, for example, were put in charge of the Tennessee Valley Authority, while conservationists made long-term projections of the country’s use of natural resources. A few city planners, furthermore, were given the opportunity to oversee the construction of complete “New Towns,” suburban subdivisions and rural villages. For example, the US Resettlement Administration under Rexford Guy Tugwell developed several “greenbelt” towns, the most famous being Greenbelt, Maryland (1937). Planners were also empowered for the first time to build public housing on a large scale. First Houses (1935) in New York City and Techwood Homes (1936) in Atlanta were the first public housing projects completed in the United States. Their success contributed to passage of the federal Housing Act of 1937 (sometimes called the Wagner Housing Act after US Senator Robert Wagner of New York), which initiated the construction of public housing in urban areas throughout the United States. Planners, however, were constrained by a l935 Supreme Court ruling declaring that the federal government had no right to condemn private land for low-cost housing because such programs were not considered a “public purpose.” Only states and municipalities enjoyed that right. The Public Works Administration proceeded to establish local housing authorities throughout the country. Thus after 1937, the federal government did not build one unit of housing, but simply supplied funds to communities with housing authorities which applied for funding.

At the same time, armies of the unemployed built shantytowns called “Hoovervilles,” which sprang up across the country in city parks, railroad yards, and on abandoned suburban land. Money from the federal government also poured into city halls to fund a laundry list of infrastructure improvement projects to put some of the unemployed back to work, ranging from laying sewers in the streets to planting trees in the forest preserves. Although the wartime emergency stymied most of their projects, planners looked forward to a coming era of peace and prosperity.

The Golden Era of Formal, Clean-Sweep Planning: 1945–1965

For twenty years following the end of World War II, city planners enjoyed more power to influence the building of the urban environment than before or since. Academically trained experts played central roles in the modernization of the inner cities and the sprawl of the suburbs. A transatlantic consensus persuaded policymakers that overcrowding in the slums was the root cause of social disorder and crime. Their professional unity amplified their call for clean-sweep demolition in the center and mass resettlement in healthy homes in the periphery. Fueled by federal funding, highway engineers took the lead in creating computer simulations of future traffic patterns to justify bulldozing historic neighborhoods in the name of national defense. New Deal experiments in housing became major programs to underwrite “urban renewal” projects, beginning with the Housing Act of 1949. The federal government expanded home mortgage subsidy programs with the passage of the Servicemen’s Adjustment Act of 1944 (better known as the GI Bill), which facilitated record-setting home ownership in the United States, especially for white male veterans. Buying a house in the suburbs became a better deal than renting an apartment in the city. While the older, railroad cities in the “Rustbelt” of the Northeast and the Midwest gave top priority to remaking their downtowns into international business centers, the newer, automobile cities of the “Sunbelt” in the West and the South put their emphasis on constructing freeways to the city’s expanding outer rings of settlement.

Pent-up demand for housing to accommodate a historic baby boom generated a wellspring of opportunity for planners to design complete communities on the “crabgrass frontier” of suburbia.11 Many of them incorporated the model suburban ideals of Riverside and the neighborhood unit plan of Radburn. They helped the community builders apply industrial-scale, assembly line methods to building this suburban ideal, complete with front yard landscaping and cul-de-sac streets. William Levitt was the leading pioneer of these new suburban communities. His family business constructed “Levittowns” in Long Island (1947), Pennsylvania (1952), and New Jersey (1958). These and other similar projects, such as Los Angeles County’s Lakewood (1954)—constructed by Louis Boyer, Mark Taper, and Ben Weingart—were mass-produced in a frenzy of construction, shifting the population by 1970 from an urban to a suburban majority. Lakewood was also the nation’s first community to “contract out” for all of its municipal services when it incorporated, making it the nation’s first “contract city.” The “Lakewood Plan” became a low-tax model for postwar suburban planners. The original goal of comprehensive city planning to create a dispersed metropolis had triumphed.

The two postwar decades may have been a golden era for city planners, but those years represented a dark period of despair for the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by their clean-sweep approach to urban renewal. The neighborhoods of mostly poor African American and other nonwhite ethnic groups were specifically targeted for so-called slum clearance. Official experts and private mortgage lenders had already doomed these community areas as patches of land at the end of their life cycles. They were “red-lined” as unworthy of any further financial investments or conservation efforts. To accommodate some families bulldozed out of their homes, the planners designed clusters of public housing tower blocks that became “second ghettos” of class and racial and ethnic segregation.12 Many others displaced by the wrecking ball and discrimination had to cram into substandard housing in other red-lined neighborhoods, disrupting their social order, accelerating their physical decline, and fueling the rise of violent youth gangs. Under the reign of top-down, formal approaches to city planning, the geographic and the social distance between the haves and the have-nots kept widening over sprawling metropolitan regions.

Largely unnoticed at the time, some neighborhoods in the city and inner ring of historic suburbs experienced revivals with thriving districts of restored housing, trendy shops, and nightlife attractions. In these parishes and neighborhoods, a core group of homeowners, shopkeepers, and local leaders, according to the most influential critic of the official planners, Jane Jacobs, came together to save their communities from the wrecking ball of urban renewal. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1962), Jacobs praised their informal, bottoms-up approaches to planning because they were restoring a vibrant culture of city life in the streets, parks, and other public spaces between the buildings.13 She also condemned the concept of the Organic City as a cruel myth that kept planners and policymakers hidden behind an academic façade of the autonomous, natural life cycle of cities. In addition to highlighting the vitality of inner-city districts as North End in Boston and Back-of-the-Yards in Chicago, Jacobs could have also named a growing list of ethnoburbs, where various immigrant groups remade their neighborhoods into comfort zones. In metropolitan Los Angeles, for example, a majority of Monterey Park/San Gabriel became Asian, while nine out of ten residents of once white, working-class South Gate were Latino by the end of the twentieth century. The immigrants established their own churches, social clubs, business owners associations, restaurants, food markets, and so on that nurtured a sense of community solidarity and cultural identity in their new homeland.14

The Revolt Against the Planners: 1965–1980s

A revolt against the planners began in the Watts district of Los Angeles in 1965, escalating over the next three years into a national (and an international) crisis of civil disorder, racial inequality, and environmental injustice. These mass uprisings demanded answers to questions about the city planners’ value-laden assumptions about society, and their undemocratic, top-down process of decision making. Other, more peaceful forms of protest sprang up to stop the highway builders from destroying any more historic neighborhoods. These class-bridging, coalition movements raised questions about the profession’s blind faith in technological modernization as the only way to bring about a utopian, Organic City. The revolt triggered an internal crisis among the experts that resulted in fundamental changes in the theory and practice of formal city planning over the next twenty years.

American Urban Planning Since 1850

Figure 4. HOLC Redlining map of Pittsburgh, PA. Courtesy of Mapping Inequality. Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

During this period of energy transitions and related economic stagflation, advocates of new approaches contested the postwar consensus. Some called for professional experts to assume different roles as advocates of citizen participation from the bottom up in the formation of public policy. Others called for private institutions and business corporations to take greater roles in partnership with government in the production of urban space. Defenders of technological modernization doubled down by designing much more sophisticated computer simulations of the Organic City as an autonomous, metabolic system of flows. The planner became a manager, according to the influential textbook, Urban and Regional Planning: A System Approach, whose role was “the deliberate control or regulation of this system so that the physical environment shall yield the greater social benefit in relation to cost.”15

Voiceless were the growing ranks of the city’s homeless, unemployed victims of deindustrialization, globalization, and deconcentration of jobs to the car-accessible-only periphery. Rising into the tens of thousands in several metropolitan areas, they often found relative safety and mutual aid by clustering together in makeshift campsites and shantytowns. Their daily presence on city streets and in public spaces, however, heightened fears of violence and crime among middle-class residents, setting off a panic appropriately called white flight to fortified, gated communities in new style, “edge cities.”16

From the Watts riots to the Battle of Chicago at the 1968 Democratic Party National Convention, the nation was rocked by civil uprisings in city after city by African Americans and other nonwhite racial and ethnic groups. Although these outbursts of bloodshed, looting, and arson usually started with a police confrontation, they forced the larger issue of institutional racism into the public arena. The ensuing political debate exposed the central role of formal city planning in slum clearance and urban renewal projects that resulted in segregated and inferior public housing, education, healthcare, recreation, and other essential urban facilities and services. The real estate industry’s systematic practice of racial and ethnic prejudice also came to light during this frightening period of so-called hot summers. In addition, the critics of modernism like Jacobs, who were previously dismissed out-of-hand, now became prominent spokespersons of alternative approaches to city building. In 1968, for example, these avatars of reform helped write the Fair Housing Act, which made discrimination a federal offense. Congress also passed legislation that empowered community groups in the formation of plans for local improvement projects that accepted federal funding. At the same time, the collapse of the postwar consensus of clean-sweep planning exiled the professional experts from the centers of power at city hall.

During these lean years of intense infighting, some planning practioners found work helping private developers build complete mini or edge cities on the crabgrass frontier of metropolitan regions. They followed a formula that located a mix of corporate headquarters set in college campus-like settings, ever-bigger shopping malls, and commercial/professional office space near a superhighway. Adjacent to these economic anchors, developers morphed the neighborhood unit into the gated community. The limited access feature of the original design was readymade for adaptation to consumer demand for security as a top priority in deciding where to live. Planners also appealed to homebuyers’ special interests by fashioning homogenous communities for retirees, golfers, artists, and those seeking the exclusivity of class from million-dollar-plus price tags. Urban areas became multicentered and commuting patterns reversed as city residents in the center followed the diffusion of jobs into the periphery.

In 1968, the revolt against the planners became international, when the largest protest movements in the postwar era erupted in cities throughout Europe and Latin America. The rejection of technological modernism was a common cause bringing diverse groups into the streets, including trade unionists, college students, political activists, and counterculture radicals such as Betty Friedan, Abbie Hoffman, and Andy Warhol. They now echoed critics who had earlier decried the planners’ creation of a dystopian “technological society” that was reducing human consciousness to a robotic “one-dimensional man.”17 New voices called for advocacy and participatory approaches to institutionalize democratic planning at the neighborhood level. Building on this political ideal of the city as a landscape of self-governing villages, the infusion of modern environmentalism further blurred the lines between formal and informal planning. Denouncing grand plans, they applauded the reconstruction of Watts by Mexican Americans into a neighborhood, where the front yards and streets were alive with hot music, mural art, religious ritual, low-riders, spicy food, and pride in the community.18 The appearance of a profusion of alternative visions of the city generated a permanent state of contestation over planning proposals for makeovers of inner city and suburban districts.

The Age of the Multicentered Metropolis: 1980s–Present

During the recovery of the US economy in mid-1980s, planners enjoyed a revival of their personal fortunes and professional influence in building the urban environment. But the theory and practice of planning remained fractured, challenged by opposing factions from within as well as outside critics from all sides of the debate over the future of the city. Reflecting the growing divisions in contemporary society, perhaps, formal approaches to planning expressed an equally widening gap between competing urban ideals. In a similar way, city hall’s response to the problem of homelessness ranged from criminalization and imprisonment to expansion of social welfare and public housing programs.

On the one hand, the top-down proponents of technological modernization envisioned smart cities, where computers coordinate the flow of people, information, and goods in real time. Like some of today’s high-tech buildings that automatically adjust the window shades to maximize interior light and temperature, the cyborg City of Flows will have digital feedback loops to control environmental conditions and maintain social order. On the other hand, the bottom-up champions of participatory planning foresee a democratic future embedded in multicentered metropolitan regions. The accretion of government jurisdictions has devolved power from city hall and corporate boardrooms into the hands of local communities. In a populist City of Citizens, residents will take primary responsibility for the production and experience of urban space in their home districts.19 While system planners called for administrative consolidations like the ten-county Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), participatory advocates worked to give a seat at the table of policymakers to groups such as homeowners associations, ward advisory councils, and environmental protection organizations.20

Over the next quarter century, a wide spectrum of formal plans was implemented with varying degrees of success. Local politician and business leaders led the effort to restart “the city as growth machine,” returning to incremental, piecemeal approaches to planning from the top down.21 Relinquishing comprehensive plans, experts designed projects at a middle-range scale to kickstart the urban economy: convention centers, tourist attractions, trendy districts, and environmental modernization projects for public parks and nature preserves. Downtown regeneration plans, for instance, included San Antonio’s Riverwalk, Chicago’s Millennium Park, and New York’s High Line. The highway engineers restored their reputations as leaders of the profession by creating the most sophisticated system approaches. For example, the planners of Atlanta’s ARC presented computer simulations of the city’s future patterns of growth as all-but-inevitable projections of spatial and demographic trends. They facilitated a political process that confounded value-laden, software scenarios and physical reality. They became partners with civic elites, who used their reports to justify not only funneling increasingly limited funds into their city boosting schemes but also cutting off investment in other districts, turning them into “ghettos of exclusion.”22

Adopting the real estate developers’ age-old law of land values, formal approaches to planning gave special emphasis to bringing about greater physical intensification of people and activity in both the center and the periphery. Revitalization of the inner ring of suburbs, for instance, involved government-business partnerships to pay for improving the streetscapes of their Main Streets with public funds and upgrading their storefront facades with private money. The plans also typically recommended rezoning these commercial districts to permit high-density, multifamily housing in new apartment and condominium buildings as well as in units converted from old shops and warehouses. Plans for intensification of select patches of urban space depended on a second common assumption of top-down approaches: the need to weave metropolitan areas seamlessly into an emerging global infrastructure of interconnectivity. One exemplar of transnational urbanism was the Club of Rome. Founded in 1968, its supercomputers have quantified flows of geophysical, economic, and social data on a global scale. Another was post-Watts Los Angeles’s Silver Book Plan and its successors, designed to attract investment capital from other countries and forming a Pacific Rim of economic markets. To stay competitive as a vital node in this flow of trade, the planners drew maps to integrate seaports and airports, highway networks, transit systems, innovation centers, and Internet capacities. Initially designed to subsidize the rebuilding of the downtown district, the plan was modified in the late 1980s to spread the benefits to commercial office centers throughout the metropolitan region.23 To create a global city of suburbs, the planners also responded to a continuing intensification of a psychological state of fear of crime and violence among some city residents by offering blueprints of fortified tower blocks in the center and high-security, mini-cities of walls in the periphery.24

In the follow-up to the first Earth Day in 1970, environmental reform movements sprang up to save the planet, or at least patches of it. In the city, the highway revolt often became an early source of political demands from the bottom up to participate in the planning process. Since the proposed routes of the bulldozer tore through many neighborhoods, these top-down schemes also served as coalition builders that cut across social divisions of race and ethnicity, gender, and class. Sometimes with the help of the new breed of university-trained, advocacy planners, the grassroots no longer accepted the lame role offered by city hall to voice feedback on, but to make no significant changes in its finished plans.25 Like the conservation movement during the Progressive Era, more and more people formed placed-based groups to save nature from the city as growth machine that was paving over the land, polluting the air and the water, and killing off the native wildlife. To reclaim urban and suburban natures from overdevelopment, reformers proposed solutions that ranged from more technology to dismantling it in favor of replacing brown fields with open lands, invasive species with indigenous plants and animals, and sanitation channels with restored waterways.26

In the post-consensus age, planners were liberated from the orthodoxy of modernism to create hybrids that combined various mixes of technological, environmental, civic, and ethnocultural values. A visionary of socially and economically balanced communities, master builder James Rouse personified the evolution of planning on an ever-larger scale by the private sector. During the thirty years following World War II, he moved up from a mortgage loan broker to a pioneer developer of shopping malls as suburban town centers, to designer of the master planned community of Cross Keys (1965) outside of Baltimore, Maryland, to the planner of a complete new city, Columbia, Maryland (1967). Around a town square, Rouse arranged twelve, neighborhood unit-like villages that provided a range of housing stock, industrial parks, commercial zones, recreational spaces, and all the other facilities and conveniences of modern life. Rouse went on to develop Boston’s Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market (1976), Baltimore’s HarborPlace (1980), and New York’s South Street Seaport (1983) into major tourist destinations. Six years after opening, HarborPlace had tripled the number of tourists in the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore. Boston’s Faneuil Hall attracted 12 million tourists in 1995.27

While inner-city neighborhoods were undergoing makeovers with suburban strip malls and big-box stores, Rouse’s comprehensive planning inspired the rise of a “New Urbanism” in the utopian tradition of city building.28 To create the master-planned community of Celebration, Florida, for example, the Walt Disney Company employed professional firms and famous architects. They reimagined, circa 1900, an affluent railroad suburb, a village green surrounded by single-family houses set back on large front lawns. Governed as private space, the company required homebuyers to sign an agreement to obey a thick bible of restrictive property rules and social prohibitions. Other New Urbanism designs devoid of public space included enclosed shopping malls and commercial buildings equipped with elevators without push-buttons and entry only by personal keycard, permission from a security guard, or remote-control surveillance camera. In the postmodern era of pluralism, premodern models of urban commons, civic centers, and residential enclaves were also reinvented on patches of built-up areas.

American Urban Planning Since 1850

Figure 5. Plan of Celebration, FL, 2012. From public records.

The current state of urban planning in the United States remains highly contested between formal and informal, top-down and bottom-up approaches. Returning to piecemeal and small- and middle-scale projects, the intensification of the New Urbanism has transformed declining downtown cores and railroad suburbs into upscale hubs of cosmopolitan life. These conscious efforts have been matched by community activists, rehabbers, and speculators, who applied ad hoc methods of gentrification to neighborhoods throughout the metropolitan region. Some of them have been reborn as not only ethnocentric districts but class-exclusive ones as well. Against the benefits of these projects to modernize the urban environment must be weighed the costs in terms of human displacement and loss of the city’s architectural heritage. Equally problematic has been the rise of place-based groups, which rally behind a banner of Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) to defeat reforms aimed at narrowing social and environmental gaps of inequality. The politics of planning remains at the center of the ongoing civic debate about the ideal American city of the future.

Discussion of the Literature

The history of planning history is relatively brief. Its origins paralleled and eventually converged with two other budding fields of scholarly interest in the post–World War II era, cities and technology. At first, all three fields took a biographical approach to tell heroic stories of leading pioneers, metropolitan growth, and revolutionary inventions, respectively. By the mid-1960s, they each had adopted sociological concepts that created a methodological framework of political culture and economy. Formal planning became seen as playing an instrumental role in much larger processes of urbanization and modernization. Planning history expanded in terms of the number, type, and organization of actors, as well as the range of research topics. Some scholars, moreover, traced the ideological roots of urban planning back into the nineteenth century.

By the mid-1980s, interdisciplinary approaches more or less morphed into multidisciplinary ones that wove planning into the socioeconomic, political, and cultural fabric of the city. Planning history broadened its perspectives by drawing insight from emerging fields of study, including the environment, suburbanization, transnational urbanism, and globalization. Since then, it has continued to become more enmeshed in postmodernist models of an increasingly complex web of society and culture. In a similar way, the American experience is being intertwined into larger comparative and international frameworks of research.

An antiurban, pastoral bias left the city a long-neglected subject of study by American historians compared to traditional topics such as the westward conquest of a continent, and the Civil War. With the official birth of “city planning” in 1900, and a majority of the population living in urban areas two decades later, a nation in denial could not persist forever. Yet, it took another twenty years to reach a tipping point with the publication of Arthur Schlesinger, Sr.’s influential essay, “The City in American History.”29 After 1945, peace and returning veterans brought prosperity to colleges and universities, including their social science and humanities departments. The first serious history of planning, however, did not appear until 1969, when Mel Scott produced American City Planning since 1890.30 Before this important study of the institutionalization of planning, the field was occupied by biographies of its first generation of founding heroes, who were now fast passing away. The American Institute of Planner’s journal sponsored a series of them as well as Scott’s celebratory history of the profession and its milestones.31

During the twenty years after the mass uprising of the Watts section of Los Angeles in 1965, scholars created a widening spectrum of urban studies that focused attention on class, gender, race and ethnicity. In giving agency to previously ignored place-based communities and special interest groups, historians shed light on the multitude ways that they had contributed to making the urban environment. The researchers not only gave credit to informal methods of city building, but also gave voice to protests from the bottom up against planning from the top down. Paralleling the revolt against the planners in the streets, scholars applied postmodernist techniques of deconstruction to dissect the ideological roots and literary classics of the profession. For example, they linked the ideas behind Fredrick Law Olmsted’s park and suburban plans in the 1850s to the birth of comprehensive planning and Organic City concepts during the Progressive Era. Historians, moreover, traced the anti-urban bias of the profession to its postwar plans of clean-sweep slum clearance, urban renewal, and high-speed freeways to middle-class, white suburbs.32

Although slow in gaining traction, the architectural critic Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) was an intellectual bulldozer that demolished the planner’s postwar consensus of value-laden, albeit unspoken assumptions about urban society and its political economy.33 Historians followed in her footsteps to reexamine the long-term causes and consequences of metropolitan sprawl and technological modernization that by 1970 had created a suburban majority. Planning history evolved to work within multidimensional, socioeconomic frameworks and methodologies. Furthermore, it continued to expand the chronological and spatial boundaries of the impacts of planning theory and practice on American cities. The garden city plan of England’s Ebenezer Howard, for instance, was reframed from a suburban blueprint of metropolitan growth to a utopian ideal of social cooperation. Following his antiurban, pastoral ideas through literary texts, Raymond Williams illuminated their genesis in seventeenth-to-eighteenth century London, when it became a “monster,” the western world’s first big city.34 At the other end of the timeline, historians gave modern planners a makeover from their Progressive Era self-image as social reformers to neoliberal agents of the business class that helped rationalize and construct the “Capitalist City.”35

Over the last quarter century, historians have been pushing the frontiers of urban and planning history in all directions from the local to the regional, transnational, and global. On these multiple geographic scales, they have been investigating the flow of planning ideas among the grassroots, professional elites, and policymakers. Equally important, they have been examining the process of turning plans into shapes on the ground. Individual and comparative case studies remain the basic approach to research projects. Some of them are exploring planning theory and practice at the micro-neighborhood level while others are putting the local in larger international contexts. For example, ethnographic perspectives from inside exploding shantytowns in the global South inform scholarship on America’s big city ghettos of despair. In contrast, historians are producing studies that show how the worldwide spread of American-style gated communities and edge-cities are creating global suburbs.36 Taken together, these investigations are spawning new ways of seeing the planning cultures of different ethnic and national groups. This scholarship also invites self-reflection on America’s cultural shifts from conservation to environmentalism, Levittown subdivisions to New Urbanism, and bricks-and-mortar stores to wireless interconnectivity.37

Primary Sources

Planning history is embedded in larger social and cultural frameworks of urban studies. The geographical scale of the research project will direct attention toward specific sources. The official records of planning, public works, public health, and parks and recreation departments, and special commission reports exist at every level of the federal system from city hall to the national capital. Private organizations and advisory groups often provide a parallel set of sources of formal planning from the local to the national and beyond, to a global level of computer simulations. Metropolitan and regional scale agencies offer additional documents. The published works of academic theorists and working practioners can be consulted in their books and essays in professional journals and conference proceedings. Researchers can also seek access to the archives of individual planners, as well as to their architectural, engineering, and consulting firms.

Literary and artistic sources are another depository of the social and cultural history of planning when they reveal visions of life in futuristic utopian and dystopian cities. And, of course, material culture, in the form of patches of the built environment, can be interrogated by scholars to evaluate the successes and failures of specific plans in the production of urban space. Historic photographs, films, and videos can also help provide a way to examine over time the planners’ intended uses of their city building projects in comparison to their actual uses.

A different basic set of primary sources exists for formal and informal planning at the neighborhood and parish levels of community organization. Hopefully, these groups and their leading spokespersons have kept a collection of their records, or have given them to a historical archive. Daily newspapers and monthly local magazines, especially in digital form, can prove invaluable in recreating timelines and agendas of planning activism from the bottom up. These accounts supply the raw materials of the politics of planning. In the period before the institutionalization of city planning during the Progressive Age, the bigger cities often had several newspapers that represented the viewpoint of different political factions and ethnic groups. A reading of these documents—some in foreign languages—can uncover each of their plans and proposals for building the city of the future.


Cornell University Library, Rare and Manuscript Collections, Architecture and City Planning.

Next City.

Streetsblog USA.

Further Reading

Abbott, Carl. “Urban History for Planners.” Journal of Planning History 5 (November 2006): 301–313.Find this resource:

    Arnold, Joseph L. The New Deal in the Suburbs: A History of the Greenbelt Town Program, 1935–1954. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1971.Find this resource:

      Blackmar, Elizabeth, and Roy Rosenzweig. The Park and the People: A History of Central Park. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

        Buder, Stanley. Visionaries and Planners: The Garden City Movement and the Modern Community. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.Find this resource:

          Davis, Mike. The City of Quartz. New York: Vintage, 1990.Find this resource:

            Gillette, Howard, and Zane L. Miller, eds. American Urbanism: A Historiographical Review. New York: Greenwood Press, 1987.Find this resource:

              Hirsch, Arnold R. Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940–1960. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.Find this resource:

                Jackson, Kenneth T. Crabgrass Frontier—the Suburbanization of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.Find this resource:

                  Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1961.Find this resource:

                    Kruse, Kevin Michael, and Thomas J. Sugrue, eds. The New Suburban History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.Find this resource:

                      Light, Jennifer S. The Nature of Cities: Ecological Visions and the American Urban Professions, 1920–1960. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

                        Marcuse, Peter. “The Ghetto of Exclusion and the Fortified Enclave: New Patterns in the United States.” American Behavioral Scientist 41, no. 3 (1997): 311–326.Find this resource:

                          Melosi, Martin V. The Sanitary City—Urban Infrastructure in America from Colonial Times to the Present. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

                            Mohl, Raymond A. “The Expressway Teardown Movement in American Cities: Rethinking Postwar Highway Polity in the Post-Interstate Era.” Journal of Planning History 11, no. 1 (2012): 89–103.Find this resource:

                              Peterson, Jon A. The Birth of City Planning in the United States, 1840–1917. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

                                Radford, Gail. Modern Housing for America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.Find this resource:

                                  Rome, Adam. The Bulldozer in the Countryside—Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

                                    Schaffer, Daniel, ed. Two Centuries of American Planning. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988.Find this resource:

                                      Sies, Mary Corbin, and Christopher Silver, eds. Planning the Twentieth-Century American City. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

                                        Scott, Allen John, and Edward W. Soja, eds. The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the Twentieth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.Find this resource:

                                          Scott, James C. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

                                            Scott, Mel. American City Planning since 1890. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969.Find this resource:

                                              Smith, Carl S. The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.Find this resource:

                                                Tomes, Nancy. The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

                                                  Warner, Sam Bass, Jr. Streetcar Suburbs: The Progress of Growth in Boston, 1870–1900. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962.Find this resource:


                                                    (1.) Roy Rosenzweig, and Elizabeth Blackmar, The Park and the People: A History of Central Park (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998).

                                                    (2.) Joel A. Tarr and Gabriel DuPuy, eds., Technology and the Rise of the Networked City in Europe and America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988).

                                                    (3.) David G. McCullough, The Great Bridge (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972).

                                                    (4.) David Schuyler, The New Urban Landscape: The Redefinition of City Form in Nineteenth-Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 162–167.

                                                    (5.) Nancy Tomes, The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998); and Martin V. Melosi, The Sanitary City—Urban Infrastructure in America from Colonial Times to the Present (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).

                                                    (6.) Carl S. Smith, The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).

                                                    (7.) Harold L. Platt, Building the Urban Environment: Visions of the Organic City in the United States, Europe, and Latin America, Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015).

                                                    (8.) Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., “Introduction,” in City Planning, ed. John Nolen ([New York: D. Appleton, 1916] as quoted in Jon A. Peterson, The Birth of City Planning in the United States, 1840–1917 [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003]), 2.

                                                    (9.) New York, Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs. 10 vols. (New York: Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs, 1927).

                                                    (10.) Robert Fishman, “The American Garden City: Still Relevant?” in The Garden City: Past, Present and Future, ed. Stephen V. Ward (London: Spon, 1992), 146–164.

                                                    (11.) Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier—the Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985).

                                                    (12.) Arnold R. Hirsch, Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940–1960 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983); and Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Root Shock: How Tearing up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It (New York: Ballantine, 2004).

                                                    (13.) Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Random House, 1961).

                                                    (14.) Mike Davis, Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent the U.S. City (New York: Verso, 2000); and Becky M. Nicolaides and James Zarsadiaz, “Design Assimilation in Suburbia: Asian Americans, Built Landscapes, and Suburban Advantage in Los Angeles’s San Gabriel Valley since 1910,” Journal of Urban History 43, no. 2 (2017): 332–371.

                                                    (15.) Quoted in H. W. E. Davies, “Brian McLoughlin and the Systems Approach to Planning,” European Planning Studies 5, no. 6 (1997): 719–729. Also see J. Brian McLoughlin, Urban and Regional Planning: A Systems Approach (New York: Praeger, 1969).

                                                    (16.) Joel Garreau, Edge City: Life on the Frontier (New York: Doubleday, 1991); and Edward James Blakely and Mary Gail Snyder, Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997).

                                                    (17.) Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (New York: Knopf, 1964 [1954]); and Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964).

                                                    (18.) Ricardo Romo, East Los Angeles: History of a Barrio (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983); and Davis, Magical Urbanism.

                                                    (19.) Erik Swyngedouw, “The City as Hybrid: On Nature, Society and Cyborg Urbanization,” Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 7, no. 2 (June 1996): 65–80; and European Council of Town Planners, Towards the New Charter of Athens: From the Organic City to the City of Citizens (Athens: European Council of Town Planners, 1998).

                                                    (20.) Carlton Wade Basmajian, Atlanta Unbound: Enabling Sprawl through Policy and Planning (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2013). Also see Harold L. Platt, Building the Urban Environment: Visions of the Organic City in the United States, Europe, and Latin America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015).

                                                    (21.) Harvey Molotch, “The City as Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place,” American Journal of Sociology 82 (September 1976): 309–332.

                                                    (22.) Peter Marcuse, “The Ghetto of Exclusion and the Fortified Enclave: New Patterns in the United States,” American Behavioral Scientist 41, no. 3 (November/December 1997): 311–326; and Basmajian, Atlanta Unbound.

                                                    (23.) Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1996); Allen J. Scott, “Resurgent Metropolis: Economy, Society and Urbanization in an Interconnected World,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32 (September 2008); Donella H. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and Dennis L. Meadows, The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2004); and Mike Davis, The City of Quartz (New York: Vintage, 1990).

                                                    (24.) Mike Davis, “Fortress Los Angeles: The Militarization of Urban Space,” in Variations on a Theme Park—the New American City and the End of Public Space, ed. Michael Sorkin (New York: Noonday, 1992), 154–180; Raphael Sonenshein, The City at Stake: Secession, Reform, and Battle for Los Angeles (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004); William Sites, “Global City, American City: Theories of Globalization and Approaches to Urban History,” Journal of Urban History 29 (March 2003): 222–246; William I. Robinson, “Globalization and the Sociology of Immanuel Wallerstein: A Critical Appraisal,” International Sociology 26, no. 6 (October 2011): 723–745; and Nicolas Kenny and Rebecca Madgin, eds., Cities Beyond Borders: Comparative and Transnational Approaches to Urban History (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2015).

                                                    (25.) Barbara Ferman, Challenging the Growth Machine: Neighborhood Politics in Chicago and Pittsburgh (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996).

                                                    (26.) Rutherford H. Platt, Rowan A. Rowntree, and Pamela C. Muick, eds., The Ecological City: Preserving and Restoring Urban Biodiversity (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994).

                                                    (27.) Nicholas Dagen Bloom, Merchant of Illusion: James Rouse, America’s Salesman of the Businessman’s Utopia (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2004)

                                                    (28.) Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream (New York: North Point Press, 2000); and Sonia A. Hirt, “Premodern, Modern, Postmodern? Placing New Urbanism into a Historical Perspective,” Journal of Planning History 8, no. 3 (August 2009): 248–273.

                                                    (29.) Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. “The City in American History,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 27 (June 1940): 43–66. For the half century following World War II, this essay draws heavily upon Mary Corbin Sies, and Christopher Silver, “The History of Planning History,” in Planning the Twentieth-Century City, eds. Mary Corbin Sies and Christopher Silver (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 1–36. It provides a much more comprehensive analysis and bibliography than this short historiographical note.

                                                    (30.) Mel Scott, American City Planning since 1890 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969).

                                                    (31.) See Donald A. Krueckeberg, ed., The American Planner: Biographies and Recollections (New York: Methuen, 1983), for a collection of these essays. See also Robert Fishman, Urban Utopias in the Twentieth Century: Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier (New York: Basic, 1977).

                                                    (32.) See Peter J. Schmitt, Back to Nature: The Arcadian Myth in Urban America, 1900–1930 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969); William H. Wilson, The City Beautiful Movement (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989); Blackmar and Rosenzweig, The Park and the People; Jon A. Peterson, The Birth of City Planning in the United States, 1840–1917 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); Christopher Klemek, The Transatlantic Collapse of Urban Renewal: Postwar Urbanism from New York to Berlin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011); and Christopher C. Sellers, Crabgrass Crucible: Suburban Nature and the Rise of Environmentalism in Twentieth-Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

                                                    (33.) Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. See also the equally devastating, early postwar critique of social life in a new suburban subdivision, William Hollingsworth Whyte, The Organization Man (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956). Significantly, he was the editor of the financial elite’s Fortune magazine.

                                                    (34.) Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 145–148. On the garden city, see Peter Hall, Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century (London: Blackwell, 1988); and Stanley Buder, Visionaries and Planners: The Garden City Movement and the Modern Community (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990)

                                                    (35.) Richard E. Foglesong, Planning the Capitalist City: The Colonial Era to the 1920s (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986); and M. Christine Boyer, Dreaming the Rational City: The Myth of American City Planning (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983).

                                                    (36.) Robert Fishman, “Global Suburbs,” a paper presented at the First Biennial Conference of the Urban History Association (Pittsburgh, September 2002). See also Garreau, Edge City; William Sites, “Global City, American City”: 222-246; Kristen Hill Maher, “Borders and Social Distinction in the Global Suburb,” American Quarterly 56, no. 3 (2004): 781–806; Justin A. Read, “Obverse Colonization: Sao Paulo, Global Urbanization and the Poetics of the Latin American City,” Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 15 (December 2006): 281–300; and Platt, Building the Urban Environment.

                                                    (37.) Christopher Silver, “New Urbanism and Planning History: Back to the Future,” in Culture, Urbanism and Planning, Heritage, Culture, and Identity, eds. F. J. Monclús and Manuel Guàrdia i Bassols (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006), 179–193; Sellers, Crabgrass Crucible; Manuel Castells, The Informational City: Information Technology, Economic Restructuring and the Urban-Regional Process (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989); and Nicolas Kenny and Rebecca Madgin, eds., Cities Beyond Borders: Comparative and Transnational Approaches to Urban History (Farnham, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015).