• 312 pages
  • 6 x 9
  • 1 figure, 14 maps
  • Price: $30.95
  • EAN: 9781439912379
  • Publication: Oct 2015
  • Price: $90.50
  • EAN: 9781439912362
  • Publication: Oct 2015
  • Price: $30.95
  • EAN: 9781439912386
  • Publication: Oct 2015

Building the Urban Environment

Visions of the Organic City in the United States, Europe, and Latin America

Harold L. Platt

Building the Urban Environment is a comparative study of the contestation among planners, policymakers, and the grassroots over the production and meaning of urban space. Award-winning historian Harold Platt presents case studies of seven cities, including Rotterdam, Chicago, and Sao Paulo, to show how, over time, urban life created hybrid spaces that transformed people, culture, and their environments.

As Platt explains, during the post-1945 race to technological modernization, policymakers gave urban planners of the International Style extraordinary influence to build their utopian vision of a self-sustaining “organic city.” However, in the 1960s, they faced a revolt of the grassroots. Building the Urban Environment traces the rise and fall of the Modernist planners during an era of Cold War, urban crisis, unnatural disasters, and global restructuring in the wake of the oil-energy embargo of the ’70s.

Ultimately, Platt provides a way to measure different visions of the postwar city against actual results in terms of the built environment, contrasting how each city created a unique urban space.


"Historian Harold Platt seeks to chart the 20th century history of planning in Building the Urban Environment .... The book sparkles with concepts and turns of phrase.... (It) will definitely provoke comparisons and stimulate thought."
Planning Magazine

"Platt offers an engaging, fascinating comparative case study that examines how cities were built during the postwar era in the US, Europe, and Latin America.... Summing Up: Highly recommended."

"Writing transnational history is not an easy task. Harold L. Platt, one of the most eminent American urban historians, is well prepared for this task and the empirical, conceptual, and linguistic challenges that come with it. In Building the Urban Environment , he looks at seven cities...to engage the notion of the 'organic city' and how it has influenced urban planning paradigms in the twentieth century. This work is highly ambitious in the best spirit of transnational history.... He powerfully demonstrates how architects, engineers, and planners were given great leeway to actualize their grand-scale utopian visions of the organic city and how that transformed urban environments.... Platt’s account brilliantly illustrates how abstract concepts like the organic city are problematic foundations for urban reforms.... Building the Urban Environment offers a very powerful account of the postwar development of urban visions, organic city models, and their significance during the Cold War."
American Historical Review

"Platt’s Building the Urban Environment is an important contribution to understanding the complexity of large-scale urban growth in the twentieth century, of the rise and decline of the systems approach to managing that growth on three continents, and of the popular responses to professional efforts to impose design solutions from the top down. Architectural, planning, and urban historians will find the book useful, as will historians of organizational structures, social historians interested in comparative history across three Atlantic continents, and policy people who want to know more of the twentieth century developments that helped shape many of our large cities in the twenty-first century."
Social Science Journal

" Platt’s transnational history Building the Urban Environment tracks seven cities...that embrace or reject the 'Organic City' concept.... (He) places Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright in conversation with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Los Angeles police violence victim Rodney King, and invites us to see planning as contested, and to understand how struggles to shape the built environment serve—and neglect—the interests of urban stakeholders.... Platt asserts a bold reimagining of twentieth-century planning."
Journal of Urban History

"(I)t is precisely the author’s bold and determined effort to reach beyond national boundaries that allows the reader to understand the global reach and impact of Modernism. Building the Urban Environment is captivating reading for national and international audiences seeking to understand alternative and more comprehensive visions of urban space formation and transformation."

About the Author(s)

Harold L. Platt is Professor of History Emeritus at Loyola University Chicago. He is the author or editor of several books, including Shock Cities: The Environmental Transformation and Reform of Manchester and Chicago, and Building the Urban Environment: Visions of the Organic City in the United States, Europe, and Latin America (Temple ). He has twice won the book-of-the-year award from the American Public Works Association.

In the Series

Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy

The Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy series, edited by David Stradling, Larry Bennett, Davarian Baldwin, and Yue Zhang, was founded by the late Zane L. Miller to publish books that examine past and contemporary cities. While preserving the series’ foundational focus on the policy, planning, and environmental issues so central to metropolitan life, we also join scholarly efforts to push the boundaries of urban studies. We are committed to publishing work at the shifting intersections of cultural production, community formation, and political economy that shape cities at all scales, from the neighborhood to the transnational. Proposals may be submitted to Temple University Press Editor-in-Chief Aaron Javsicas or the series editors at the email addresses linked above. 

In honor of Zane Miller, the late founding editor of our series, Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy, we invite first-time authors to apply for a grant of up to $2,500 to help advance the careers of scholars from underrepresented communities with limited financial resources.  For more information, Zane L. Miller Book Development Award