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Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development in America from George Washington to the Builders of the Twenty-first Century, and Why We Live in Houses Anywayby Witold Rybczynski
Synopses & Reviews
The typical town springs up around a natural resourceandmdash;a river, an ocean, an exceptionally deep harborandmdash;or in proximity to a larger, already thriving town. Not so with andldquo;new towns,andrdquo; which are created by decree rather than out of necessity and are often intended to break from the tendencies of past development. New towns arenandrsquo;t a new thingandmdash;ancient Phoenicians named their colonies Qart Hadasht, or New Cityandmdash;but these utopian developments saw a resurgence in the twentieth century.
In Practicing Utopia, Rosemary Wakeman gives us a sweeping view of the new town movement as a global phenomenon. From Tapiola in Finland to Islamabad in Pakistan, Cergy-Pontoise in France to Irvine in California, Wakeman unspools a masterly account of the golden age of new towns, exploring their utopian qualities and investigating what these towns can tell us about contemporary modernization and urban planning. She presents the new town movement as something truly global, defying a Cold War East-West dichotomy or the north-south polarization of rich and poor countries. Wherever these new towns were located, whatever their size, whether famous or forgotten, they shared a utopian lineage and conception that, in each case, reveals how residents and planners imagined their ideal urban future.
"Maybe you like the way America is being built, maybe you don't, but either way you will not find a more absorbing or patient look at the real real estate process than this elegant time-lapse portrait of a neighborhood-to-be. Witold Rybczynski is the poet laureate of what you haven't noticed that's probably right in front of you." Robert Sullivan, author of Cross Country: Fifteen Years and 90,000 Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America
"Nowhere do pretty hypotheses get blast-tested by the facts as in the work of Witold Rybczynski. He is not the kind of scholar who looks at perfectly functional realities and asks whether they can possibly work in theory. Instead, in Last Harvest Rybczynski is our engaging and authentic guide, immersing us in a fascinating narrative of how real people live, work, play — and build. Last Harvest is The Soul of a New Machine for the new urbanism." Joel Garreau, author of Edge City: Life on the New Frontier
When Witold Rybczynski first heard about New Daleville, it was only a developer's idea, attached to ninety acres of cornfield an hour and a half west of Philadelphia. Over the course of five years, Rybczynski met and talked to everyone involved in the building of this residential subdivision — from the developers to the township leaders, whose approval they needed, to the home builders and engineers and, ultimately, the first families who moved in.
Always eloquent and illuminating, the award-winning author of Home and A Clearing in the Distance looks at this "neotraditional" project, with its houses built close together to encourage a sense of intimacy and community, and explains the trends in American domestic architecture — from where we place our kitchens and fences to why our bathrooms get larger every year.
Last Harvest was voted one of the ten best books of 2008 by the editors of Planetizen, and as Publishers Weekly said, "Rybczynski provides historical and cultural perspectives in a style reminiscent of Malcolm Gladwell, debunking the myth of urban sprawl and explaining American homeowners' preference for single-family dwellings."
Traces the creation of a rural Pennsylvania residential subdivision from its planning and building stages to the residencies of its first owners, in an account that offers insight into the years-long process of housing development and how it is related to sprawl and ex-urban growth. By the author of The Perfect House. 60,000 first printing.
About the Author
Rosemary Wakeman is professor of history and director of the Urban Studies Program at Fordham University. She is the author of The Heroic City: Paris 1945andndash;1958, also published by the University of Chicago Press. She lives in New York.
Table of Contents
I: The developer — Seaside — Epiphanies — Last harvest — Life, liberty, and the pursuit of real estate — Joe's deal — On the bus — Meetings — Scatteration — More meetings — II: Drop by drop — On the way to exurbia — Design matters — Locked in — House and home — Generic traditional — The dream — Builders — A compromise — III: Trade-offs — Mike and Mike — Ranchers, picture windows, and morning rooms — Pushing dirt — The market rules — Bumps in the road — Hard sell — Competition — The spreadsheet buyers — Moving day.
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