I have been stumbling on a treasure trove of urban planning videos lately. Many focus on New Urbanism. Several are mid-century vintage that give a priceless look into the thinking that went into the eventual mass desecration of American cities and their surrounding countryside. The pair of videos linked here are a bit of a combination of new urbanism meets mid-century suburban idealism.
The vintage video (in 2 parts, linked at the bottom of this story) is by famed 20th century urban thinker and commentator Louis Mumford. It was produced in 1939 by the American Institute of Planners in what is basically a propaganda piece for the glories of suburbanism played against the horrors of the city. The video plays as great kitsch and would be funny if it was not such a tragic representation of how our country went so wrong in urban planning and transportation policy.
The original movie has been over-dubbed with modern commentary by New Urbanist James Howard Kunstler and his associate Duncan Crary.
The new commentary was recorded for a DVD called The Story of Sprawl produced by the urban planning web site, Planetizen. The full DVD can be purchased at that site. The original untouched movie can also be seen on Kunstler’s own site called the Kunstlercast.
Kunstler is quickly becoming my new hero. His commentary on modern America and especially our suburban and urban environments is funny and caustic and very often dead-on right. I have so far only seen and read a small amount of his work, but I agree with almost all of his points. I believe that what he is saying should be an important part of our social dialogue. So far it isn’t. Amazingly many of the simplistic principles espoused in the original 1939 movie still guide our planning to this day. These videos are a soft intro to Kunstler. I will post a few harder hitting samples in the near future.