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Lewis Mumford

(1895—1990)


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(1895–1990).

American architectural and town-planning critic. A disciple of Patrick Geddes, his views on urban planning originally stemmed from that source. His Story of Utopias (1922) was followed by many books, including Sticks and Stones (1924), the widely read The Culture of Cities (1938), and The City in History (1961). His knowledge and interests ranged far and wide, as is clear from The Culture of Cities, The Brown Decades (1931), and Technics and Civilization (1961), while he contributed articles to many journals, and wrote a perceptive regular column on architecture and the environment for The New Yorker entitled ‘The Skyline’ (1930s–1950s). A critic of the dehumanizing effects of technology, he nevertheless believed in the need for large-scale regional, even national, plans, and was a founding-member of the Regional Planning Association that sponsored the Garden City complex of Sunnyside Gardens, Queens, NYC, and also worked for the New York. Housing and Planning Commission. He belonged to the low-density decentralist tradition of Ebenezer Howard, Abercrombie, and Unwin, yet, because of his belief in the need for large-scale planning, found his philosophical position confused. That confusion deepened after he helped to organize the MoMA exhibition, International Style, in NYC (1932—with Johnson, Hitchcock, and others), for by the 1940s he saw where CIAM-Corbusier-inspired dogmas of urban planning were leading, and he became a vociferous critic of them. In his New Yorker articles he prophesied the roles that the motor-car and urban motorways would play in the decay of the city as early as 1943, but his support for large-scale centralized intervention was challenged by others, notably Jane Jacobs, with whose views on urban renewal he agreed, but when her The Death and Life of Great American Cities came out in 1961 he was obliged to attack her thesis regarding urban densities. He insisted that architecture and planning had to be socially responsible, and he emphasized the plight of the individual in The Myth of the Machine (1967) and The Pentagon of Power (1971).

Architectural Review, clxxxvii/1117 (Mar. 1990), 9;LG&S (1996);D. Miller (1989);L. Mumford (1922, 1924, 1931, 1934, 1938, 1944, 1946, 1952, 1952a, 1961, 1963, 1967, 1970, 1975);Progressive Architecture, lxxi (Mar. 1990), 24;Jane Turner (1996);Wojtowicz (1996)

Subjects: Arts and Humanities.


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