Synopses & Reviews
This book traces the development of Lewis Mumford's ideas and his work as founder of the Regional Planning Association of America (RPAA), and then explores the relevance of Mumford's vision to today's urban and environmental problems.
"Luccarelli...probes how Mumford's planning roots grew from a search for balance and community grounded in his recognition of the 'underlying geographic and economic realities' of a region. Going backward in time to these roots and forward to their physical installation on the land, Luccarelli assesses the import of these planned communities lucidly."
--Jane Holtz Kay in The Nation
"Mark Luccarelli's book (is) the first to show Mumford and his colleagues at their full stature as thinkers and planners. This is because Luccarelli combines two attributes not usually possessed by one person (at least not since the heyday of the Regional Planning Association of America itself). First, this is a deeply committed book written by someone who believes in the contemporary importance of Mumford and the RPAA for defining the contemporary meaning of ecological regionalism' and thus for potentially re-shaping our civilization. Secondly, this is a book written by someone very well trained in American studies and planning history, who not only believes that these ideas are important, but who knows how to communicate their importance in the larger context of the history of American ideas. The result is that virtually every discussion of Mumford's ideas and those of his colleagues is original and illuminating....I was impressed by the originality and clarity of Luccarelli's treatment. He has the gift of incisive analysis; he never goes on too long, or merely summarizes the material. Every paragraph reveals what is important in the text for us today....The manuscript has an impressive unity/m-/all the more so because of the range of thinkers and projects discussed. He gives proper weight to all stages of Mumford's intellectual development, but he also brings in 'dissenting' figures like Adams or Jane Jacobs for their perspective. The result is a vivid re-creation of the whole intellectual setting which Mumford dominated....It would be a great thing if every student of planning were to read this book. It would illuminate a heritage of planning thought (and American thought) now sorely neglected; and I believe Luccarelli's manuscript makes this tradition alive and accessible as no one else has. In addition, I believe that this book is a major contribution to urban studies broadly conceived (as taught in history, political science, sociology, and economics departments) and to American studies (especially as taught in English departments)." --Robert Fishman, author of Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia and Professor of History, Rutgers University, Camden
"Mark Luccarelli repositions Lewis Mumford at the forefront of today's city planning, shows why Mumford represents a renewable resource for contemporary environmentalism. Mumford and his associates once offered an influential voice in American public life. Then he and his inheritors came to represent a road not taken. Now, as Luccarelli beautifully argues, they are decisively reemerging in the concept of ecological regionalism, a practical antidote to Edge City sterility and big-city decline. Luccarelli brilliantly rediscovers Mumford as the premier urban and environmental thinker for our time." --Frank J. Popper, Ph.D., Urban Studies Department, Rutgers University
"Luccarelli's exposition of Mumford's thought is clear and often suggestive." --Adam W. Rome, Isis
"...a sharp and penetrating analysis. ...the reader gains a clearer understanding of the issues and processes that shaped the leading edge of the progressive planning movement and done of its most respected voices. As Mumford's reputation gains more widespread currency, this book will be regarded as an invaluable resource." --Owen Fureseth, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, The Professional Geographer
"Luccarelli has written an engrossing account of an important intellectual movement, providing a wealth of detail woven deftly with the concerns of the 1990s. This book is an important contribution to American Studies and Urban Planning and will also be welcomed in the emerging field of Science and technology Studies." --David Hopping, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism
"An astute, carefully argued, and closely reasoned book, one that will appeal to historians and physical planners alike....This book occupies an important place in the rapidly growing body of Mumford scholarship."--American Planning Association Journal
Well known for his column in The New Yorker
, Lewis Mumford is widely regarded as the foremost urban critic of this century. Through historical and theoretical perspectives, author Mark Luccarelli traces the development of Mumford's thought on regional planning focusing on his pioneering concept of an ecologically-based region and shows how he attempted to turn his ideas into reality through the Regional Planning Association of America (RPAA). This informative book also demonstrates how Mumford's ideas remain extraordinarily relevant and valuable to today's urban problems.
Well known for his column in The New Yorker and his visionary political and ecological ideas, Lewis Mumford is widely regarded as one of the foremost urban critics of the century. Mumford's work, which spanned the 1920s through the 1960s, addressed the environmental, aesthetic, and social dimensions of American culture. Clearly a man ahead of his time, he advanced a conception of regional development that balanced the needs of the social world with those of the natural ecosystem. This book first traces the development of his ideas and his work as founder of the Regional Planning Association of America (RPAA), and then explores the relevance of Mumford's vision to today's urban and environmental problems. In the first part of the book, Mark Luccarelli excavates the intellectual sources of Mumford's ideas. He shows how Mumford's notion of ecological regionalism reflected a tradition of ecological thinking that was most eloquently elaborated in the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. Instead of standing against modernity, Mumford linked this tradition to the potential of science for recovering a healthy relation to nature within the rubric of a participatory democracy. The value of Mumford's approach, the author argues, is his attempt to make his ideas speak to America, and to the possibilities for ecological planning inherent in the American civic tradition. Mumford proposed regional planning that would shape human life in response to the influences and critical forces of regional ecosystems; address over-urbanization and recontextualize cities in relation to nature; and take advantage of natural economies rather than economies of scale. Exploring whathappened when Mumford attempted to put his thoughts into practice, chapters examine the founding of the RPAA, as well as the debates about planning and politics that ensued from the early 1900s through the 1960s. In following these debates, the author recreates the intellectual setting centered around Mumford in dialogue with supporters and antagonists. The story of the RPAA, its innovative and moderate approach to planning, and its ultimate demise is an important one: it shows the possibilities - and the difficulties - in finding and using the intellectual and cultural materials of the American experience for social and environmental reform. Readers come away with a deeper understanding of the plight of today's cities as well as our current environmental dilemma.
About the Author
Mark Luccarelli, Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Oslo in Norway. He received his doctorate at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and his interests include planning and transportation, as well as urban and environmental studies.
Table of Contents
I. Developing a Sense of Place
1. "The Old Order and the New"
2. Defining Regionalism
3. Community and Place
4. Organicism and Planning
II. Undertaking a Vision
5. "Regions--to Live In"
6. Regional Planning as "Exploration"
7. "Dinosaur Cities"
8. Planned Decentralization: The Road Not Taken
9. The RPNY and the "Ideology of Power"
10. Place and Polity in the "Neotechnic" Era
Conclusion: The Relevance of Ecological Regionalism