The city in History by Lewis Mumford

In Chapter Thirteen of the book “The city in History”, Lewis Mumford gave an idea of the main features of an ideal city. In this chapter, Mumford speaks of palatial buildings, museums, art galleries, theaters, hotels, academies, pleasure/amusement gardens, zoological gardens, parks, cathedrals or places for worship, places for producing, selling and consumption and suburban areas for private residences. An ideal city should also have separate traffic streets from pedestrian ways. These above-mentioned features are found in most cities of the world today, specifically the thriving and prosperous ones.

Palatial buildings are a necessary component of an ideal city for they signify the political power and economic status of the city. Such buildings may not meant to be use only as a residence of the city’s top leader but also as a seat of power.

According to Mumford, this is the place where “tribute and taxes” are brought and the “command of the army and control of the organs of the city” takes place (Mumford, p.

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375). In modern times, palatial buildings may be likened to large Municipal halls or administrative office buildings of the city; prime example is the White House in Washington D. C. White House, Washington D. C. (from http://images. google. com. ph/images? gbv=2&hl=en&q=White+House&btnG=Search+Images) Museums According to Mumford, this institution is concerned with limitless acquisition (as was the customs of the baroque court). Later, palatial buildings were converted into museums that proceeded out of “scientific curiosity”.

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Inside museums are to be found a collection of religious relics, coins and inscriptions, and many others that had scientific significance (which could mean anything and everything on earth) (Mumford, p.380).

Example of a modern museum is the American Museum of Natural History in New York. American Museum of Natural History, New York ( from http://www. inetours. com/New_York/Images/Famous/Am_Museum_Nat_Hst_9312. jpg) Art galleries are display places for art collections, which may include “Roman statues”, “buried treasures of the past and natural wonders”. Art custodians take charge of these institutions. Arts in the galleries are used as a means of educating the public not only about local life but also about foreign history (Mumford, pp. 380-381).

One of the famous art galleries of our times is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (From http://www. inetours. com/New_York/Images/Famous/Met_Musm_Art_9403. jpg) Theaters These are places to display one’s talent, scenic creativity, local and foreign culture. This is also one of the useful places to distinguish the “who’s who” of the city for “Audience are seated according to rank and ability to pay and which formed their fixed position as spectators of drama scene” (Mumford, p. 379). In theaters, audiences are educated as well as entertained.

In modern times, theatres are found in most big cities like The Broadway Theater in New York. The Broadway Theater, New York (http://www. cruisereviews. com/MediterraneanShippingCruises/Lirica2Pictures/BroadwayTheater. jpg) Hotels are the best place to experience “seemingly unstinted hospitality… though at a price”. This is a place where guests are treated in the finest domestic comforts with ready attendants to look after one’s need (Mumford, p. 378). Hotels of our times are experts in hospitable attention ; famous hotel example is the Ritz Hotel in London.

The Ritz Hotel, London (http://images. google. com. ph/images? gbv=2&hl=en&q=Ritz+Hotel+London&btnG=Search+Images) Academics According to Mumford, spacious palaces of olden times were also converted as places for learning (academies) (Mumford, p. 378). Obviously, academies are an important part of any city for education is necessary in the city’s technological advancement and economic survival. Without education, residents of the city will be ignorant or will not be globally competitive. One of the most famous academies of today is the Harvard University.

Harvard University (from http://images. google. com. ph/images? gbv=2&hl=en&q=Harvard+University&btnG=Search+Images) Pleasure or Amusement Gardens According to Mumford, these are places that “supply pleasure at a price per head”. Here, dances and feastings are held and where people “might roam in fine evening, eating, drinking, flirting, watching fireworks or lantern displays and carnivals” (Mumford, p. 379). Example is the Tivoli gardens in Copenhagen and Ranelagh Gardens in London. Tivoli Gardens (from http://www. dkimages. com/discover/previews/946/50530274. JPG)

Zoological gardens are a place for “keeping of wild animals especially of the more ferocious and exotic ones”. Animals here display their various antics inside cages. The prime objective of zoological gardens is to make city people come into contact with nature or to help them relax their nerves and to bring out the “child” in them (Mumford, p. 381). Lincoln Zoo (from http://images. google. com. ph/images? q=Zoo&gbv=2&hl=en&start=20&sa=N&ndsp=20) Parks are needed in an ideal city to keep it from congestion and disintegration. Here, trees freely grow and where children can play (Mumford, p. 382).

Famous parks of today are St. James Park in London St. James Park, London (from http://images. google. com. ph/images? gbv=2&hl=en&q=St. +James+Park&btnG=Search+Images) Cathedrals In page 387, Mumford mentions cathedrals as part of a city (for city planners avoid demolishing it). Cathedrals or centers of worship are inarguably a part of a city life for they are the source of spiritual sustenance of the city dwellers. They are also symbolic of the city’s morality. Washington’s National Cathedral ( from http://images. google. com. ph/images? q=Cathedral&gbv=2&hl=en&start=40&sa=N&ndsp=20)

Places for producing, selling and consumption (Mumford, p. 383). Obviously, these are referring to manufacturing centers, stores, shops, restaurants and cafes. These places constitute the economic activity of the city. Without it, the city is dead. In modern times, we have large production industries and mega shopping centers. Restaurants and cafes (places of consumption) are found in almost every corner of a prosperous city. Store ( from http://themarkofaleader. typepad. com/the_mark_of_a_leader/walmart. JPG) Suburbs for private houses are places to “escape the oppression of the city” (Mumford, p.378).

The ideal houses that are built in these places should have separate quarters for different functions- kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, etc. ( Mumford, pp. 382-383). As an ideal city, slums are nowhere to be found. Modern Suburbs ( from http://www. themadpigeon. com/photos/uncategorized/tour_suburbs. jpg) Streets and pedestrian lanes It is briefly mentioned in page 387 about “separate traffic streets and pedestrian ways”. An ideal city of course, should have good roads for traveling and should have an orderly traffic management.

Some prosperous modern cities of our times, not only have wide well paved roads but also they have skyways and elevated pedestrian lanes. Sixth Street, Los Angeles ( from http://images. google. com. ph/images? hl=en&q=Street… Los+Angeles&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi) Although the above structures and features are an important part of an ideal city, they are not to be constructed just anywhere. Mumford does not give any idea where each should be placed but he mentioned about city planning that involves the removal of city encumbrances such as households and shops that the city engineers thought to be out of place.

According to Nikos A. Salingaros, from the University of Texas and author of Connecting the Fractal City, the placement of each city structure should be made in such a way that it encourages people’s “movements and interactions” and each structure should “cooperate in a seamless fashion to define a living city” (2003).

Questions and Answers

The city of my dreams is neither too big nor too small. (Jenna) It is clean, there aren’t any cigarette butts, chewing gums, papers or dog dirt on the floor.( Angélique /Marjorie) It is Green, ecological (Stéphanie): there are less traffic and pollution because people use alternative means of transport (Gamzé/ Maria) and the cars run with solar energy. The houses are equipped with solar panels too to protect the Earth (Fanny/Stephanie) People recycle their wastes (Gamze ) The environment is respected (Jenna) &the scenery is pleasant because the huge sky scrappers & tower blocks have been replaced by detached houses. (Marjorie/Sabrina) The city is built with recycled materials to fight global warming (Fanny) In this ideal town People are happy & safe, they can have walks in the streets & gardens even at night.

The pavements are large enough for parents with buggies and accessible for disabled people (Vanessa). Car Parks are free (Maria). You can borrow free bikes or take a stylish cheap taxi. (Anthony) Drivers respect pedestrians and don’t insult other drivers. Everybody is civilised & smiles (Angélique/ Sabrina) You can go shopping in low cost stores (Angélique). There are many activities & services for everyone: for children and elderly people .

Drama groups and artists perform in the street and a music festival regularly takes place for everyone’s Greatest pleasure. (Fanny) Criminals & delinquents are supervised by cameras. In case of a problem the police or the firemen are there immediately (Vanessa) No Poverty in this ideal town.There aren’t any homeless & beggars. Charities accommodate them in decent buildings. Students no longer sleep in cars or squats. (Marjorie /Mrs Lombrana) The rents are not excessively high, everybody can afford buying a home.(Mrs Lombrana) The ideal town looks like Bordeau (Marvin), Monaco (Jenna ) , London (Anthony)

Works Cited

Mumford, Lewis. The City in History. pp. 375-387. Salingaros, Nikos A. “Connecting the Fractal City”. April 2003. University of Texas. Accessed February 21, 2008 < http://www. math. utsa. edu/sphere/salingar/connecting. html>

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Ideal City. (2017, Jun 03). Retrieved from

Ideal City

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