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A Nation of NeighborhoodsImagining Cities, Communities, and Democracy in Postwar America$
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Benjamin Looker

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226073989

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226290454.001.0001

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Communities under Glass

Communities under Glass

The Neighborhood Unit Plan and Postwar Privatization

(p.51) Two Communities under Glass
A Nation of Neighborhoods

Benjamin Looker

University of Chicago Press

If wartime progressives touted the city neighborhood as groundwork for a more democratic civic life, their enthusiasm was matched by a 1940s upsurge of popular interest in neighborhood layout and design. As chapter 2 recounts, the postwar years saw a renewed zeal for the neighborhood-unit plan, outlined in the 1920s by planner Clarence Perry. In exhibitions, magazine features, and radio plays, 1940s proponents lauded the plan's principles as a potent method for fortifying community spirit. But though some liberals believed this model might facilitate experiments in interclass and interracial mixing, the scheme had its roots in efforts to overcome the purported “incongenialities” of urban racial heterogeneity. Chapter 2 suggests that the neighborhood-unit plan's postwar promoters, by popularizing a rigid set of standards by which a “good” neighborhood could be recognized, also fed the anxieties over community decline that would dominate neighborhood narratives of the coming decade.

Keywords:   design, layout, standards, neighborhood-unit, planner, Clarence Perry, heterogeneity

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