Cityscape Number 6, April 21, 2020

Cityscape is The Metropole’s monthly shortcut to recent, forthcoming, or overlooked writing, exhibits and film.


 Recent Books

9780300233520Rotten Bodies: Class and Contagion in Eighteenth-Century Britain

By Kevin Siena, Yale University Press, 2019

After the plague of 1666, it was the poor, allegedly weak and easily contaminated who were blamed for the epidemics that followed. The focus here is Britain with special concern for the spread of typhus, sometimes known as “jail fever.”

Radical Suburbs: Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American Cityradicalsuburbscover_2048x

By Amanda Kolson Hurley, Belt Publishing, 2019

Author Amanda Kolson Hurley asks, why are suburbs dull? But after delving into suburban history she finds that communities beyond the city limits have been hospitable to a broad and fascinating range of communitarian experiments. As far back as 1824, those inclined to celibacy and communal living could be found in Old Harmony Village outside of Pittsburgh. New York City anarchists fleeing the Red Scare in 1919 set up their own radical refuge at Stelton in New Brunwick, New Jersey. After the Second World War, young architects working with Walter Gropius in The Architects Collaborative built Six Moon Hill and Five Fields in Lexington, Massachusetts, showing that modest, well-designed and attractive suburban homes could be built as alternatives to Levittown’s little boxes. Is it possible to create and sustain a racially balanced suburban community? Read Hurley on Concord Park near Philadelphia and on Greenbelt and Reston to find out.

9780190882082Motor City Music: A Detroiter Looks Back

By Mark Slobin, Oxford University Press, 2018.

Growing up Jewish in Detroit and absorbing the city’s great music—folk, ethnic, classical, blues, soul and jazz. Unique.

News Stories About the City You Might Have Missed

Washington Can’t Solve A Housing Crisis That Doesn’t Exist

By Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, July 11,2019

Kevin Drum cautions that while the housing crisis may be very real in NYC, LA, and a few other cities, it is by no means clear that there is a housing crisis in the rest of the country. He cautions that we need to be careful when generalizing from data drawn from a few cities.

The Last Days of SB50, California’s Upzoning Bill

By Laura Bliss, CityLab, January 30, 2020

SB50 sought to override local zoning ordinances to permit more multi-family housing near transit lines to encourage transit patronage and to increase the production of moderate-income housing. The bill was defeated by a coalition of home-rule advocates who did not wish to cede zoning authority to the state, by anxious suburbanites fearing multi-family housing encroachment on their single-family neighborhoods, and by minority groups suggesting that the bill made insufficient provision for low-income housing. 

How E-Commerce is Transforming Rural China

By Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, July 16, 2018

Having been passed over by the equivalent of Sears, Wal-Mart and the shopping mall, rural China, leapfrogged into the global marketplace  with e-commerce deliveries from provincial cities and increasingly by drone deliveries.

 Films About the City


Directed by Bong Joon-ho (2019)

We begin with an impoverished family living in basement squalor and conclude with the apocalypse played out in a swank suburban backyard. Seoul is riven by class conflict and deep-seated social and economic inequities. Compare this angry film to the viewpoint of the devoted nanny of Roma (2018) employed in an elite Mexico City household.

 Urban History in Museums

Copenhagen Museum
Stormgade 18
1555 Copenhagen V

The new city museum, opened February 8th, is now closed as a result of the pandemic. The re-opening date has not been announced.

For many urban historians, Copenhagen with its famed Tivoli Gardens and bike paths epitomizes the livable cosmopolitan city. The new museum will help us understand the path Copenhagen took to attain its reputation.


The Child in The City

By Colin Ward, Pantheon Books, 1978

Anarchist Colin Ward celebrated the way kids explored city streets and neighborhoods, but during the seventies he became concerned that in London and elsewhere children were increasingly disconnected from where they lived. In twenty chapters with such evocative titles as “colonizing small spaces,” “play as protest and exploration,” “antiquarians, explorers, neophiliacs,” “wheels in the street,” “filling the shelves in the supermarket,” and “in the sandbox of the city,” Ward sought to encourage street play knowing full well that auto traffic was driving kids off the streets and that TV was pulling them inside. Little did he know that texting and video games would follow. We now see Ward’s elegant essay less as a program for change than as a celebration of street play before its demise. Get the edition with stunning photos.

What’s your take on Cityscape?

What are you reading, viewing or looking forward to? Do you want to write a review? Let us hear from you.

Jim Wunsch, Bob Carey, Eric M. Rhodes, and Jacob Bruggeman

Featured Image: [Cityscape view looking toward cathedral, Florence, Italy], between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.



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