Modernist Urbanism in the Age of Automobility: Producing Space in the Suburbs of Toronto and Prague
Logan, Steven Elliot
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Theorizing the effects of the expanding system of automobility has been an important area of inquiry in urban studies. What remains largely absent, though, are concrete investigations into the relationships between automobility and the transformations and production of urban space. Automobility is defined by its contradictions. This dissertation explores how urban planners, architects and theorists have historically responded to and attempted to resolve the contradictions of automobility. I locate these responses within the broader theoretical framework of the production of space, considering how the mode of conceiving space from the 1920s on was directly related to the car and the expanding system of automobility. Automobility as an assemblage of objects, ideologies, and institutions was central to the way architects and planners conceived of urban space: as a work of art. I argue that this conception of space circulated globally, which I show through the work of the Czechoslovak architectural avant-garde theorist Karel Teige in the 1920s and the urban theorist Humphrey Carver in post-war Canada. In this dissertation I explore automobility and the production of space by way of two post-war suburbs: Jižní město (South City) in Prague and Willowdale in Toronto. Both places were considered as solutions to problems associated with automobility and both were key nodes in the circulation of ideas on modernist urbanism. I argue that the building of South City and the rebuilding of Willowdale are the culmination of the circulation of a modernist urbanism across space and over time that attempted to respond to the forces of urbanization and automobility through planning and designing the suburb. Overcoming the contradictions of automobility will involve more than just new technologies of mobility—urban planners, architects and theorists will have to consider the production of a wholly different space for urban life. To move beyond automobility means accounting for the ways the system of automobility unevenly affects city and suburban dwellers. In an attempt to offer a critique of the city-suburb dichotomy, this dissertation argues that to go “beyond automobility” means collapsing the separations that mark both modernism and automobility.