City Beautiful

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American movement led by architects, landscape-architects, and others to make cities in the USA as attractive as those in Europe. Stimulated by the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, IL (1893), the development of metropolitan park systems (e.g. those of Olmsted and Vaux), and the founding of art societies in many cities, it gathered momentum, and, with the unveiling of the plan by Burnham, McKim, and the younger Olmsted for Washington, DC (1901–2), became of national importance. Charles Mulford Robinson (1869–1917) published his Modern Civic Art or the City Made Beautiful in 1903, and he became spokesman for the movement, advising municipalities and tirelessly promoting the cause, which was nothing to do with social reform, but only with beautification in order to enhance prestige and attract wealth. Cass Gilbert designed a new setting for the State Capitol in St Paul, MN (1903–6), and there were many other schemes to improve city centres with Beaux-Arts-inspired boulevards, squares, and buildings (mostly paid for by public subscription). The culmination of the movement was the Plan for Chicago (1906–9) by Burnham and Edward H. Bennett (1874–1954), which proposed radial avenues, ring roads, a complete reorganization of the rail network, an ambitious system of parks and parkways, and a vast and handsome civic centre. By the end of the 1914–18 war most of the protagonists were coming to the ends of their careers, but the movement exercised a powerful effect on American town planning for many years after, until International Modernism killed it stone dead.

Hines (1974);Reps (1967);C. Robinson (1903);Jane Turner (1996);W. Wilson (1989)

Subjects: Architecture.

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