Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World

From the acclaimed landscape designer, historian and author of American Eden, a lively, unique, and accessible cultural history of modern cities—from suburbs, downtown districts, and exurban sprawl, to shopping malls and “sustainable” developments—that allows us to view them through the planning, design, architects, and movements that inspired, created, and shaped them.

Dream Cities explores our cities in a new way—as expressions of ideas, often conflicting, about how we should live, work, play, make, buy, and believe. It tells the stories of the real architects and thinkers whose imagined cities became the blueprints for the world we live in.

From the nineteenth century to today, what began as visionary concepts—sometimes utopian, sometimes outlandish, always controversial—were gradually adopted and constructed on a massive scale in cities around the world, from Dubai to Ulan Bator to London to Los Angeles. Wade Graham uses the lives of the pivotal dreamers behind these concepts, as well as their acolytes and antagonists, to deconstruct our urban landscapes—the houses, towers, civic centers, condominiums, shopping malls, boulevards, highways, and spaces in between—exposing the ideals and ideas embodied in each.

From the baroque fantasy villages of Bertram Goodhue to the superblocks of Le Corbusier’s Radiant City to the pseudo-agrarian dispersal of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City, our upscale leafy suburbs, downtown skyscraper districts, infotainment-driven shopping malls, and “sustainable” eco-developments are seen as never before. In this elegantly designed and illustrated book, Graham uncovers the original plans of brilliant, obsessed, and sometimes megalomaniacal designers, revealing the foundations of today’s varied municipalities. Dream Cities is nothing less than a field guide to our modern urban world.

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Rob Krier

The author of the Urban Space, Robert Krier was born in 1938 in Luxemburg. He ranks as one of the most influential urban planners and architects of post modernism. As it is also clear in his book ‘Urban Space’, he has always taken the historic repertoire seriously. For him, continuity and aestheticism are ways of reviving what he regards as the art of architecture that lost its way in modernism. The aim of the book ‘Urban Space’ is to search how the traditional understanding of urban space has been lost within the modern cities. By explaining the terms of urban space and its structure, he has examined whether the concept of urban space retains some validity in contemporary town planning and on what grounds.

Selected books by Rob Krier are full readable online on his website:

Images and book information via Rob Krier  additional text via

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The Monuments That Were Never Built

Imagine Washington D.C. as it could have been, here are some of the monuments, bridges, museums and other buildings were never executed—at least not according to plan.

From the top:

  • Proposed Mothers’ Memorial, by John Geddes, 1922-30 
  • Preliminary Proposal for the National Cultural Center (later Kennedy Center) by Edward Durrell Stone, 1959 
  • Lincoln Memorial Proposal by John Russell Pope, 1912
  • Proposed Executive Mansion on Meridian Hill by Paul J. Pelz, 1898
  • Proposed Memorial Bridge in honor of Gen. U.S. Grant by Smithmeyer and Pelz, 1887
  • Projected Improvements to the Washington Monument and National Mall by B.F. Smith, 1852 
  • Main elevation of Capitol competition entry by James Diamond, 1792
  • “Plan for the Completion of Washington, D.C,” by Léon Krier, 1984-85
  • Design for National Galleries of History and Art by Franklin Webster Smith, 1900
  • Original design of National Cathedral by Ernest Flagg, 1896

Images and text via

We eat food that comes from the soil, the sun, the sky, and we shit back into the sewer. We are incapable of isolation. Every time we sip wine, feed the cat, order pizza, every time we do anything, anything at all, we are brushing, however, surreptitiously, however beneath our awareness – however, even, against our will – a wilder, natural world. Such awareness is simultaneously daunting and beautiful. It means that everything we do matters, and matters wondrously. More than we thought, more than we can even know. Yes, of course we must do all of the things we now know by rote: …recycle, compost, and ride our bikes, and buy organic, local, biointensive, fair-trade. All of it. And if we can manage these things with a joyful heart, then all the better. But this is not about checklists, is it? About the reduction of our planetary relationships to a mean tally of resources used, saved, and available?

It is about a habit of being, a way of knowing, a way of dwelling. It is about attentive recognition of our constant, inevitable continuity with life on earth, and the gorgeous knowledge this entails. There is a crow’s nest in the neighbor’s yard, and there are feathers at our feet. We walk around like poems – our lives infused with meaning beyond themselves.

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Runways to Greenways: Lateral Office Imagine WWII Airstrips as New Urban Landscapes

Lateral Office, founded in 2003 by Mason White and Lola Sheppard, is an experimental design practice that operates at the intersection of architecture, landscape, and urbanism. The studio describes its practice process as a commitment to “design as a research vehicle to pose and respond to complex, urgent questions in the built environment,” engaging in the “wider context and climate of a project: social, ecological, or political.” For their Runways to Greenways, an urban design proposal for the Vatnsmýri area of Reykjavík, the architects sought to simultaneously acknowledge the rich history of the site while looking forward to new economies and public realms. The project area, a significantly-sized defunct World War II runway, was slated for universities, bio-tech, housing and commercial development. This proposal, which used landscape and exterior program as a catalyst for urban development, identifies exterior space as equally charged with activity, use and event as built or interior spaces within the city. The figure of the runway is used to identify three primary axes, and each former runway is converted into a “greenway” that uses a quality of the city as its primary trait: namely, ecology, recreation, and production. Lateral Office join the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial alongside over 100 architects, artists, and designers from around the world.