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City Beautiful movement
The City Beautiful movement was a Progressive reform movement in North American architecture and urban planning that flourished in the 1890s and 1900s with the intent of using beautification and monumental grandeur in cities to counteract the perceived moral decay of poverty-stricken urban environments. The movement, which was originally most closely associated with Chicago and Washington, D.C., did not seek beauty for its own sake, but rather as a social control device for creating moral and civic virtue among urban populations. Advocates of the movement believed that such beautification could thus provide a harmonious social order that would improve the lives of the inner-city poor.
Origins and impact
The movement arose in the United States in response the perceived wretched conditions of inner-city poverty in crowded tenement districts, itself a product of increased immigration and consolidation of rural populations into cities. The movement flourished for several decades, but it also achieved great influence in urban planning that extended throughout the 20th century, in particular in regard to the later creation of housing projects in the United States. The "Garden City" movement in Britain influenced the contemporary planning of some newer suburbs of London, and there was cross-fertilization between the two esthetics, one based in formal garden plans and urbanization schemes of the Baroque the other, with its "semi-detached villas" evoking a more rural atmosphere. Critics of the movement asserted that the uniformity and high-mindedness of the style created dullness and sterility in urban environments, ironically contributing to an increase in the urban blight that the original advocates of the movement were seeking to ameliorate.
The particular architectural style of the movement borrowed heavily from the contemporary Beaux-Arts movement, which emphasized the necessity of order, dignity, and harmony. The movement also borrowed from classical monumental planning but differed from the true neoclassical style in that in the City Beautiful movement, the classical idiom was adopted only partially, mixed with Beaux-Arts elements, and subjugated as means to the end of creating uniformity and harmony in style.
World Columbian Exposition
The first large-scale elaboration of the City Beautiful is considered to have been the "White City", as it came to be called, at the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. The planning of the exposition was headed by architect Daniel Burnham, who brought in architects from the eastern United States, as well as the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, to build large-scale Beaux-Arts monuments that were vaguely classical with uniform cornice height. The exposition displayed a model city of grand scale, with clean state-of-the-art transport systems and no visible poverty. The exposition is credited with leading to the wide-scale embrace of the monumental idiom in American architecture for the next 15 years. Richmond, Virginia's Monument Avenue is one expression of this initial movement.
1901 Washington, D.C. Plan
The first attempt to use City Beautiful ideal for a city plan with intent of creating social order through beautification was the 1901 Plan for Washington, D.C. , which arose from the Senate Park Commission 's redesign of the monumental core of the city to commemorate the city's centennial and to fulfill unrealized aspects of the city plan of Pierre Charles L'Enfant a century earlier.
The Washington planners, who included Burnham, Saint-Gaudens, Charles McKim, and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. , visited many of the great cities of Europe with the intent of putting Washington on par with the European capitals of the era and creating a sense of the legitimacy of government in a time of social upheaval in the United States. The essence of the plan surrounded the U.S. Capitol with monumental government buildings to replace "notorious slum communities". At the heart of the design was the creation of the National Mall and eventually included Burnham's Union Station. The implementation of the plan was interrupted by World War I but resumed after the war, culminating the construction of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922.
The movement's success in Washington is credited with influencing subsequent plans for beautification in many other cities, including Chicago, Cleveland, Montreal, and San Francisco. In New Haven, John Russell Pope drew up a plan for Yale University that swept away substandard housing, but banished the urban poor to the peripheries.
The movement waned after 1909 when it came under assault from planners and critics who disliked its expensive, impractical, and allegedly elitist and superficial characteristics.
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