Gillette metropolisLienhard 7: The City

Today, people thinking about the future of the city worry about sprawl.  In the early 20th century the city seemed headed in a different direction. This is a case of a technological trend that changed direction.  Why?

Two competing visions of the future of the city--the titan city or sprawl
titan city=cities would get taller and denser and this would become the way the majority of people live

Between 1870 and 1920 New York City expanded from less than a million to 5 1/2 million population and from 22 to almost 300 square miles.  Density also increased in the center city with the invention of the elevator and steel frame construction. 
People began to imagine how far the skyscraper might go

King Gillette
, who started the first company to make disposable razor blades, also wrote a book published in 1894 about how the United States should be organized.  His ideas:

If this seems ridiculous consider the proposal that the best thing we could do for the environment would be to all live in cities, and let the rest of the land go back to wilderness (see the island civilization scenario of Roderick Nash)
1920s City of the Future by Hugh Ferris
city of the future
The vision of the future in which we would live in giant cities interconnected by skyways was common in the early 20th century, longer in science fiction: it became the focus of utopian dreams but it was also what you would predict if trends of the time continued
the city in the film
the city in the 1927 film Metropolis
Why didn't we get the titan city future?
Chrystler Building

People came to see the giant city as threatening, cities looked for ways to change that image
Some architects and dreamers continued to propose unified cities
Most fundamentally, what happened to the titan city idea is that the automobile led us in the opposite direction

 Traffic in Los Angeles, 1949

Now our problem is sprawl
"The project of suburbia is the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. America has squandered its wealth in a living arrangement that has no future." -James Howard Kunstler, The End of Suburbia
Patrick Square development in Clemson
Where are we going in the future?

This page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
HIST 1220
last updated 10/4/2019