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The flood of mass-produced consumer goods that characterized twentieth century production techniques created the potential for increasing the number of outlets and thus de-emphasizing the importance of the great downtown stores. No longer would one have to go "downtown" to enjoy a wide selection of goods. By the turn of the century, growing corporate bureaucracies learned. As corporate offices detached themselves from the factories they controlled, these factories were now free to locate in the cheapest and most convenient locations outside traditional urban factory zones.

These new networks undermined the functional underpinnings of metropolitan centralization, but the new city might have emerged slowly and partially if it had not found an unexpected ally: the American government Governments in Europe, fearful of urban growth consuming the best agricultural land, severely restricted decentralization wherever they could; for example, as early as the British government prohibited London and the other large British cities from expanding beyond their current boundaries and a decade later decreed permanent greenbelts around cities.

In the United States, however, the federal government and other levels as well was the indefatigable promoter of the urban expansion. Government "planning" was largely unconscious and unintended, but that did not lessen its effects. We might discern four separate areas where state intervention was crucial in the years from to Although American preference for the single-family suburban house was well-established by the s, it took the New Deal's Federal Housing Administration FHA in to reform the system of mortgage finance which made the American dream house a reality.

As Kenneth Jackson has shown, FHA regulations funnelled mortgage money to new- ry-built suburbs which were considered good credit risks, while virtually denying such funds to the cities. In World War II, the new production facilities built under the auspices of Defense Plants Corporation in such fields as synthetics, alloys, and aircraft rarely located within the central city. They tended to be large-scale enterprises organized around the new pattern of keeping all production facilities on a single level. Almost overnight they gave the metropolitan peripheries and decentralized sunbelt cities a substantial industrial base on which they could build in the.

During the twentieth century, a fundamental disparity separated the growing highway network from the stagnant or declining rail network. Highways were regarded as a public responsibility and could draw directly on the state's powers of taxation. Rail freight and often mass transit as well was under the control of private corporations that were after unable and unwilling to upgrade their systems. As a result, highway engineers presided over one of the massive construction efforts in history, culminating in the 44, miles of the federal interstate highway system built since , while rail and mass transit declined as their proprietors staggered to bankruptcy.

This meant a powerful tilt in the transportation system toward highways that served as the Main Streets of the emerging cities, while the decline of the railroads slowly strangled the centralized industrial metropolis. After central cities were generally unsuccessful in annexing their suburbs. This means not only that they lost the tax base of the most prosperous and rapidly- expanding portions of the region; also, since zoning in the American system is essentially a matter of local control, the power to regulate growth passed to those local suburban governments who had the least interest in restraining growth in the interest of a balanced metropolitan region.

Developers soon learned that they could play off the small local planning boards against each other, escaping all control. As the developer Sam Lefrak once observed, "there is no zoning, only deals". Relieved of the task of delivering the full range of services required by a great dty, suburbs could tailor their expenditures to the specific needs of their constituents.

Thus, suburban public school systems rose surprisingly quickly to rival and surpass the once-dominant urban schools. By combining all these governmental, social and economic forces, we can understand the force behind the great tide of decentralization that has washed irresistibly over American metropolis since It continued relentlessly, in booms and recessions, under Democratic or Republican ad-.

On edge : performance at the end of the twentieth century, C. Carr, (electronic resource)

The first significant sign was loss of population; between and , all the large established cities lost population. To these losses were soon added shrinkage in the industrial base. Between and , the sixteen largest and oldest central cities lost an average of 34, manufacturing jobs each, while their suburbs gained an average of 87, On this base of population and jobs, entrepreneurs in the s and s began constructing the new as a self-sufficient world.

By the s and s, the new city found itself on the upside of a whole range of national and even international trends. The movement from snowbelt to sunbelt meant a shift toward urban areas that had been "born decentralized" and organized on new city principles. Finally, the new city in the s successfully challenged the urban core in the last area of central dty dominance, office employment The "office park" of the s became the locale of choice for a wide range of advanced service functions. By the s, even social scientists could not ignore that the whole terminology of "suburb" and "central city" deriving from the era of the industrial metropolis had become obsolete.

As Mumford had predicted, the single center has lost its dominance. Instead, the very concept of. But are these sprawling regions cities? Judged by the standards of the centralized metropolis, the answer is no. As I have suggested, this "dty" lacks any definable borders, a center or a periphery, or a dear distinction between residential, industrial and commercial zones.

On Edge : Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century by C. Carr (2008, Paperback, Revised)

We can easily understand why urban planners and social sdentists trained on the dear functional logic of the centralized metropolis can see only disorder in these "nonplace urban fields", or why ordinary citizens use the word "sprawl" to describe their own neighborhoods. Nevertheless, I believe that the new dty has a characteristic structure, but one that departs radically not only from the old metropolis but from all other dties in the past.

To grasp this structure, we must return to the prophetic insights of Frank Lloyd Wright.


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From the s to his death in , Wright was preoccupied with his plan for an ideal decentralized American dty which he called "Broadacres". Although many elements of the plan were openly Utopian - he wished, for example, to ensure that every American would be entitled to at least an acre per person, so that all of us would have the opportunity for the economic independence and mental therapy derived from part-time farming - Wright also had a remarkable insight into the highway-based world that was developing around him. Above all, he understood the consequences of dty based on a grid of highways rather than the hub-and-spokes of the older dties.

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Instead of a single privileged center, there are multitude of crossings, no one of which can assume priority. The grid, moreover, is boundless by its very nature, capable of unlimited extension in all directions. Such a grid, therefore, does not allow for the emergence of an "imperial" metropolis to monopolize the life of a region. For Wright, this meant that the family home would be freed from its subjection to the dty and allowed to emerge as the real center of American life. As he put it, "the. In the Broadacre plans for a city he said would be "everywhere or nowhere", Wright foresaw what I take to be the essential element in the structure of the new city.

It is a city based on time rather than space. Even the largest of the old "big cities" had a firm identity in space.

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It has a center which was the basic point of orientation - the Loop, Broadway and 42nd Street, etc. Starting from the center, sooner or later one reached the end of the developed area. In the new city, however, there is no single center. Instead, as Wright suggests, each family home becomes the central point for its members. They create their own "cities" out of the destinations they can reach usually travelling by car in a reasonable length of time. Indeed, we customarily conceive of the new city in terms of time rather than distance.

A supermarket is not four miles away but ten minutes away in one direction, a mall thirty minutes in another direction, and a job forty minutes by yet another route. The pattern formed by these destinations represents the city for that particular family of individual. The more varied the destinations one chooses to reach or is able to reach, the richer and more diverse is one's personal "city". One might conceive of the new city as composed of three overlapping networks, representing the three basic categories of destinations that define each person's city.

These are the household network; the network of consumption; and the network of production. The household network is composed of those destinations that support personal life. For a household composed of two parents and children, this network is necessarily oriented around child- rearing. Its set of destinations include the chil- drens' basic playmates, who may be down the block or scattered around a county; the daycare center, the schools, houses of worship, community centers, parents' friends, etc. Although this network is generally more localized than the other two, it is almost always wider than the traditional.

That is why frantic mothers and fathers spend much of their time ferrying children from one point of the new city to another. Parents and children comprise the archetypical new city household, but, especially since , the new dty has made a place for those who do not conform to that pattern. For single or divorced people, single parents, young childless couples or older "empty nest" couples, widows and widowers, the new city offers a measure of familiarity and security they find lacking in the central cities; an increasingly-wide ranger of housing opportunities; and even the opportunity to create personal networks that fit their needs.

The same mall that caters essentially to families on weekends and evenings might also serve as an informal community center for older people in the morning; while the bars and restaurants support a lively singles scene after the stores close.

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The network of consumption - Mallopolis, in economist James Millar's phrase - comprises essentially those shopping centers which, as Wright predicted, would locate themselves at the strategic crossroads of the highway system. It also includes recreational facilities, even a second home thirty to fifty miles away.

Although this network serves much the same consumption function as the old downtown, it remains scattered as each consumer works out his particular set of preferences among upscale and downscale facilities; larger, more diverse malls versus smaller, more convenient ones. In the world of mass production, no single store or chain or mall monopolizes a product line.

The cornucopia of consumer goods permits the old downtown to be "cloned" into the multiple incarnations of Mallopolis. Finally, there is the network of production. It includes the place of employment of one or both spouses, which might be located in opposite directions from the home. It also includes the complex set of supply facilities which these enterprises customarily rely upon. Information comes instantaneously from around the world while raw materials, spare parts and other necessities are brought by truck from the many suppliers that cluster around the larger organizations.

Both functions co-exists in virtually every "executive office park". Its most successful enterprises are those where research and development and specialized techniques of production are intimately intertwined: Pharmaceuticals, for example, or electronics. Conversely, its most routinized labor can be found in the so-called "back-offices", data processing centers that perform tasks once done at a corporate headquarters but which have been exported to cheaper locales in the new city.

Each of these networks has its own spatial logic. For example, primary schools are distributed around the region in response to the school-age population; shopping malls are distributed according to population and the road system; large firms locate where their workers and their suppliers can reach them. Instead of the logical division of functions of the old metropolis, one finds a post-modern, post-urban collage. At most a particularly active regional mall like Tysons Corner might draw together elements from different networks - shopping facilities and offices - to form an approximation of an old downtown.


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But the collage-structure of the new city militates against such an amalgamation, for such centers immediately become points of special congestion. More typically, the new city allows and requires each citizen to make the necessary connections among the three networks on his own, to draw that complex pattern of multi-directional journeys that constitute each person's city.

The new dty has no center or boundary because it does not need them. Women have been a not-so-hidden force propelling the new dty to economic success.

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Firms moving out of the old central business districts or factory zones have found a ready supply of women workers, especially married women with children returning to the work force. The employment profile of the new dty, especially in its concentration on retail trade and back-office data processing, would be impossible without this supply. Indeed, the presence of these employment opportunities so dose to home has surely.

Such women need flexibility that would be impossible if they had to commute downtown.