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The Impossible 'Dream Cities'

A book review of the newly released book, "Dream Cities," by Wade Graham.
February 9, 2016, 12pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Michael J. Lewis reviews a new book by Wade Graham, titled Dream Cities. After establishing a framework for the review with a discussion of Thomas More's book Utopia, Lewis begins to explain the argument of Graham's book. Namely:

…the basic physical structures of our contemporary world that these men created, from the shopping mall to the picturesque suburb, have grown mundane through constant repetition, to the point that they barely register on the eye. A 'remarkable, global urban monotony' has set in, everywhere from Singapore to Ulan Bator to Buenos Aires to Boston. A garden designer and historian, Graham wants us to see these urban and architectural forms afresh, not as the drab commonplaces they have become but as the work of visionaries 'whose dreamed-of cities became the blueprints for the world we actually live in.'

According to Lewis, Dream Cities provides a "field guide" to seven specific kinds of visions for these dreamed of cities: "monuments," "malls," "slabs" (high-rise towers), "castles" (Graham's term for romantic suburbs), "homesteads" (contemporary suburban sprawl), "corals" (the neotraditional towns of the New Urbanism), and "habitats."

After critiquing some of the book's highs and lows, Lewis concludes by noting the unintentional tragedy of the story told by the book: "The visionaries profiled here, with few exceptions, suffered from an overweening belief in the capacity of architecture to shape behavior and thus society….It takes only a moment’s reflection to realize that this is foolishness…"

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Published on Friday, February 5, 2016 in The New York Times
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