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Cityscapes in “Geography of Nowhere” by J. Kunstler Essay (Article)


Introduction

James Howard Kunstler, in his book “Geography of Nowhere” covers the issues that arise from overly extensive development. The focus of the book lies especially on the so-called “man-made landscape.” This landscape represents the beautiful, non-standard buildings that used to be quite common, only a few decades ago. This paper will focus on reviewing the first three chapters of the book.

Review

The first chapter is titled “Scary Places,” and its focus is on the childhood of the writer. He starts the book with an aside about the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” The movie presented a scene where the villain explains his plan, which sounds exactly like our lives today1. With that aside the author makes his position clear, he is strongly against urbanization. Then, Kunstler proceeds to write about how the word “development” became a dirty word thanks to the never-ending urbanization and standardized architecture. He talks about how the majority of everything built in the United States has been built in the last fifty years, with little to no variation or imagination. He presents an oppressive view of the modern cities and writes that this was the inspiration for writing this book.2 The second half of the chapter is dedicated to his childhood experience of growing up in a development called Northwood. He writes about the beauty of the place before the construction of the development has truly started. One of the more important things he mentions in this part is the house where he moved to as a child. Despite the popularity of the split-level houses, the author lived in a non-standard home, which in part, gave him the love for the unique buildings and non-standard “man-made” landscapes3.

The second chapter is titled “American Space,” and its focus lies in the origins of the American love for expansion. Throughout the chapter, he writes about the Puritan Pilgrims who arrived in America in the 1600s4. Kunstler writes about the mental leap these people had to make to take a chance and move to America. Their beliefs of the place were far from the truth, but they have not faltered and eventually gained a foothold in the new country. He covers their conflicts with the English government and eventually connects their arrival with the expansion of townships, connections between cities, and other improvements that would eventually become urbanization5. Then he covers how other colonists received and developed their land throughout the country. After the American Revolution, the land became even more available, and people increased their spread all across the country. He ends the chapter by talking about how new American laws facilitated the growth of the country6.

The third chapter is called “Life on the Gridiron,” Kunstler writes about how the idea of buildings cities on a grid, developed over time. He puts the origins of it in the selling of land to settlers in blocky chunks, making grids almost naturally. Then he talks about the drawbacks of this plan. Such as disregard of topography by the lines, and the difficulty of creating rural villages when farms are scattered across the land. At first, the idea of a grid was connected only to private individuals, which would eventually result in towns composed of blocks, instead of civic places7. The advantages of this grid are the economy of buildings and easy orientation. Then finishes the chapter by writing about how the new American cities managed to avoid the spread of slums and the dangers of industrial cities of Europe, thanks to their abundance of land and lack of historical connections8.

Bibliography

Kunstler, James Howard. 1994. The Geography of Nowhere. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Footnotes

  1. Kunstler James Howard, The Geography of Nowhere (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 9.
  2. Kunstler, The Geography of Nowhere, 11.
  3. Ibid., 12
  4. Ibid., 18
  5. Ibid., 19
  6. Ibid., 26
  7. Ibid., 30
  8. Ibid., 37
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"Cityscapes in "Geography of Nowhere" by J. Kunstler." IvyPanda, 12 Nov. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/cityscapes-in-geography-of-nowhere-by-j-kunstler/.

1. IvyPanda. "Cityscapes in "Geography of Nowhere" by J. Kunstler." November 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cityscapes-in-geography-of-nowhere-by-j-kunstler/.


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IvyPanda. "Cityscapes in "Geography of Nowhere" by J. Kunstler." November 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cityscapes-in-geography-of-nowhere-by-j-kunstler/.

References

IvyPanda. 2020. "Cityscapes in "Geography of Nowhere" by J. Kunstler." November 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cityscapes-in-geography-of-nowhere-by-j-kunstler/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Cityscapes in "Geography of Nowhere" by J. Kunstler'. 12 November.

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