Synopses & Reviews
Why do cities look the way they do? In this fascinating exploration of the strikingly different landscapes of Boston and New York, Mona Domosh cites historical, social, and economic reasons for the shaping of each city in the nineteenth century. She contrasts Boston's domestic landscape of parks and residences with New York's expansive retail and financial buildings, showing how these reflect the beliefs, fears, and values of the individuals and groups who lived there.
"A stimulating example of the 'new' cultural geography". -- Virginia Quarterly Review
"Significant for its multilayered approach to understanding the city, Domosh's work is worthy of a careful read". -- Choice
"Drawing from an impressive knowledge of cultural geography, architectural history, and urban form, Domosh argues that the distinctive features of the two cities emerged from the conflicting impulses of their respective power brokers.... Domosh presents a clearly articulated synthesis that should put to rest any notion that architectural form can be discussed without a deep understanding of cultural context". -- Adam M. Sweeting, American Book Review
"This book moves beyond existing studies and unpacks the meaning architecture held for its clients, deepening our understanding of architectural and urban form". -- Daniel Bluestone, author of Constructing Chicago
Why do cities look the way they do? In this intriguing new book, Mona Domosh seeks to answer this question by comparing the strikingly different landscapes of two great American cities, Boston and New York. Although these two cities appeared to be quite similar through the eighteenth century, distinctive characteristics emerged as social and economic differences developed. Domosh explores the physical differences between Boston and New York, comparing building patterns and architectural styles to show how a society's vision creates its own distinctive urban form. Cities, Domosh contends, are visible representations of individual and group beliefs, values, tensions, and fears.
Using an interdisciplinary approach that encompasses economics, politics, architecture, historical and cultural geography, and urban studies, Domosh shows how the middle and upper classes of Boston and New York, the "building elite," inscribed their visions of social order and social life on four landscape features during the latter half of the nineteenth century: New York's retail district and its commercial skyscrapers, and Boston's Back Bay and its Common and park system. New York's self-expression translated into unlimited commercial and residential expansion, conspicuous consumption, and architecture designed to display wealth and prestige openly. Boston, in contrast, focused more on culture. The urban gentry limited skyscraper construction, prevented commercial development of Boston Common, and maintained homes and parks near the business district. Many fascinating lithographs illustrate the two cities' contrasting visions.