THE 100 MILE CITY by Deyan Sudjic


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 Face it, the urban center cannot hold: This, in essence, is the message of British architecture-writer Sudjic's sweeping discussion of modern cities, especially those he deems the world's greatest: New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, and Tokyo. Hammering away with the now familiar observation that cities are spreading beyond their old boundaries, decaying in the center and reshaping themselves on the edges, Sudjic is especially impatient with those who idealize the urban past and what he calls the ``myth'' of community, and who are obsessed with saving ``elderly buildings'' even at the cost of displacing the poor. It's not that Sudjic glorifies current trends; he has as much distaste as those he criticizes for beltway office clusters ``where it is impossible to walk out at lunch time to the pub or cafe''; the centerless city that's Houston today (``you feel an emptiness everywhere''); the museum's new commercialism; huge warehouse stores like Ikea (shopping there ``makes life just a little more brutal''); and 80's overdevelopment in general. And, like everyone else, he deplores the massive public-housing projects that have only made low-income housing problems worse. Sudjic tries hard to defend ugly L.A., for example, from lovers of the ``picturesque''; to recognize airports as what he sees as authentic urban places; even to see Houston's vast void as ``exhilarating possibility.'' Yet the tone here is far from exhilarated. Even an early rundown of urban theorists and architects consists mostly of capsule characterizations followed by dismissive negative pronouncements. And though he takes on all the obligatory topics--theme parks and festival markets; grandiose postmodern kitsch; transit and tourism; and racial tensions--often Sudjic just touches these bases while relentlessly charging on. Not notably arresting in its insights, nor as strong and coherently argued as Joel Garreau's Edge City (1991). Sudjic is up on the issues, though, and his text could be useful for its sheer coverage, especially the international. (Photos throughout)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-15-642357-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993