The Transatlantic Collapse of Urban Renewal
Postwar Urbanism from New York to Berlin
The Transatlantic Collapse of Urban Renewal examines how postwar thinkers from both sides of the Atlantic considered urban landscapes radically changed by the political and physical realities of sprawl, urban decay, and urban renewal. With a sweep that encompasses New York, London, Berlin, Philadelphia, and Toronto, among others, Christopher Klemek traces changing responses to the challenging issues that most affected the lives of the world’s cities.
In the postwar decades, the principles of modernist planning came to be challenged—in the grassroots revolts against the building of freeways through urban neighborhoods, for instance, or by academic critiques of slum clearance policy agendas—and then began to collapse entirely. Over the 1960s, several alternative views of city life emerged among neighborhood activists, New Left social scientists, and neoconservative critics. Ultimately, while a pessimistic view of urban crisis may have won out in the United States and Great Britain, Klemek demonstrates that other countries more successfully harmonized urban renewal and its alternatives. This much anticipated book provides one of the first truly international perspectives on issues central to historians and planners alike, making it essential reading for anyone engaged with either field.
ACSP: ACSP Paul Davidoff Award
“Christopher Klemek has written a remarkably comprehensive and sophisticated account of the rise and fall of what he calls the urban renewal order—the great effort to reorder and rebuild cities in the postwar world, based on the triumph of modernist architecture and planning, a self-confident elite of city planners, and huge government programs. It reshaped New York, London, Berlin, and other cities. But it all came crashing down, in different ways in different countries and cities, not least because of the writing and activism of Jane Jacobs, whose influence spread far beyond her New York, where she first confronted—and confounded—the urban renewal order.”
“Klemek’s account reads like an adventure story. He wears his intercontinental, interdisciplinary scholarship lightly, yet produces profound answers to questions left hanging for sixty years: why, for example, during the Nixon and Reagan eras, local planning agencies felt like haunted houses; how big city building projects got (and get) botched through the agendas of their stakeholders; and why the best metaphor for the urban architect or planner is not the sailor at the helm but the surfer catching the waves. However, for young architects and planners now reappraising the 1960s and 1970s, Klemek offers more than illumination of a downfall and sly prescriptions. The book is an introduction to the role of social conscience in their careers, suggesting that this was not just ‘an old hangup of the 1960s,’ that there can be, must be, ways of showing social concern in the 2010s and beyond—and methods to avoid the traps that snared our earlier efforts.”
“Christopher Klemek has written an erudite transnational history of modernist planning and its discontents. Sweeping from Berlin to Toronto, from London to New York, and from Philadelphia to Boston, Klemek takes intellectual history to the streets. This is a major contribution to the fields of urbanism, architecture, planning, and the history of ideas and public policy.”
“Christopher Klemek offers fresh insights into topics of broad interest—above all, the failure of urban renewal programs—and into well-known personalities such as Jane Jacobs and Denise Scott Brown. This book is the first to add international dimensions to its subject, recasting the story of US urban renewal as the end of a transatlantic consensus. A compelling and original book.”
“Klemek’s insightful, original, transatlantic perspective on the fate of what he calls the ‘urban renewal order’ offers a useful addition to the growing literature on postwar urbanism.”
“An outstanding beginning to tracing the transnational flow of renewal ideas and recognizing the mimetic quality of urban policy.”