Architecture and the American Dream

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9780609803080: Architecture and the American Dream
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In this riveting study, Craig Whitaker reinterprets the American architectural landscape as the manifest vision of our collective conscience. Asserting that the built environment is shaped largely by cultural values, Whitaker dissects American architecture by revealing its archetypes and analyzing their origins in the national psyche. The result is a superbly evocative essay on how Americans think and live, and how these spheres are combined in our architecture.

On a grand scale, Whitaker examines the ways in which our architectural eclecticism is rooted in the democratic notion of individual liberty upon which this nation was founded. From New York to St. Louis to Los Angeles and all of the towns in between, these shared values have created a landscape that at first appears chaotic but is, in fact, remarkably homogeneous. The grid plan of most American cities, he argues, connotes equality and a refusal to acknowledge the hierarchies of the past, while issues of privacy and public display permeate the orientation of our homes and streets. And the open road has been raised to the level of a cultural icon, expressing ideas unique to this country: ideas of mobility and freedom, progress and communication. By continuously peeling away the layers of meaning that  clearly signify national obsessions, Whitaker lucidly documents the way in which America has grown and developed, for better and for worse.

In a multidisciplinary fashion, drawing on art and literature, history and politics, film and advertising, he takes in the whole of American culture, high and low. Compelling and thought-provoking, Architecture and the American Dream is certain to give Americans a new perspective from which to define themselves in relation to their environment.

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Whitaker is "an entertaining and instructive guide, and he leaves us with the fledgling skills to reappraise the landscape around us with new and widened eyes."
--New York Times

From Booklist:

Award-winning architect, city planner, and New York University professor Whitaker sets out to convince the reader that while the architecture and urban design in the U.S. appear to be totally chaotic, there is a direct correlation between our human-made environment and the values and ideals that we Americans hold so dear. These include equality, freedom of choice, and the right to express ourselves when, where, and how we see fit. Although Whitaker's book could be used as a textbook for a college course on urban design, the writing is not technical, and the ideas are presented in such a way, with references to easily recognizable features in our culture, that it is also interesting and accessible to the reader with only a casual interest in urban design. Each point made in the text is punctuated with at least one and in many cases a series of well-placed, black-and-white photographs, diagrams, and drawings. Randall Enos

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Whitaker, Craig
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