When Le Corbusier visited New York in 1935, he was already known as a fervent advocate of high-rise construction, so the New York Herald Tribune found his disdain for the city’s recent crop of tall buildings both surprising and amusing: “Your skyscrapers are too small,” he huffed. Of course what he found lacking in the streetscape was the “tower in the park”—his vision for a new urbanism based on point towers, arranged with Cartesian rigidity, of a density sufficient to allow open public space, highways, and landing strips at their bases. While Corbu and his allies were reacting with furiously destructive impulses to free their visions of the future from the very real and beloved context of old Europe, Americans—and New Yorkers in particular—were bent on creating their own modern cities on a basis that was completely antithetical to the tenets of the budding modernist movement:...


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