Planning the City Monumental: Civic Centers and Cultural Centers in Urban America, 1902-1961
Donald E. Simpson, PhD Candidate, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh
At the dawn of the twentieth century, architects and planners proposed “groupings of public buildings” in American cities. Administrative, governmental, and judicial functions clustered in formal downtown civic centers, while arts and educational institutions coalesced in remote parks near elite residential districts in picturesque cultural centers. These contrasting typologies shared ideological assumptions, but offered starkly opposed solutions to long-running debates on how best to civilize urban space. Three cities—Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Cleveland—offer crucial insights into this dramatic but neglected moment in the emergence of the modern metropolis.