Selected quotes from each chapter in Charles Montgomery’s new book – Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design.  happy-city

Today: ‘How we got here.’

Two design ideologies … went on to shape cities right through the twentieth century, and they have driven architects, reformists, and politicians ever since.  They seeped into the culture.  This is what gave them power.

The first philosophy might be called the school of separation …  The other we might call the school of speed.

It is impossible to decouple America’s suburban spread from race and class tension. … So-called exclusionary zoning, which on the surface bans only certain kinds of buildings and functions from a neighbourhood, served the deeper purpose of excluding people who fall beneath a certain income bracket.

… despite their love of liberty, Americans have embraced the massive restriction of private property rights that the separated city demands.

Suburban zoning and development codes grew so powerful and so entrenched by the end of the twentieth century that the people who financed and built most of suburbia had all but forgotten how to make anything but car-dependent sprawl.

Motordom’s soldiers waged their psychological war under the cover of two ideals: safety and freedom.

In this new age, freedom had a very particular character.  It was not the freedom to move as one pleased.  It was the freedom for cars, and cars alone, to move very quickly, unhindered by all the other things that used to happen on streets.

Once the system of dispersal was established in early suburbs, it began to repeat itself in plan after plan – not because it was the best response to any particular place, but because of the momentum of autopoiesis.

Dispersal has drawn cities into a zero-sum game: as it distilled and privatized some material comforts in detached suburban homes, it off-loaded danger and unpleasantness to the streets of dense cities.  … The fact that residents in America’s central cities report being even less satisfied and even less socially connected than people in suburbia is not a testament to the superiority of sprawl, but a by-product of received hardships and the pervasive, systemic effects of dispersal.


Another review of Happy City in Better! Cities & Towns here.

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