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Book Cover for: Victorian Visions of Suburban Utopia: Abandoning Babylon, Nathaniel Robert Walker

Victorian Visions of Suburban Utopia: Abandoning Babylon

Nathaniel Robert Walker

The rise of suburbs and the disinvestment from cities have been defining features of life in many countries over the course of the twentieth century, especially English-speaking countires. The separation of different aspects of life, such as living and working, and the diffusion of the population in far-flung garden homes have necessitated the enormous consumption of natural lands and the constant use of mechanized transportation. Why did we abandon our dense, complex urban places and seek to find 'the best of the city and the country' in the flowery suburbs?

Looking back at the architecture and urban design of the 1800s offers some answers, but a missing piece in the story is found in Victorian utopian literature. The replacement of cities with high-tech suburbs was repeatedly imagined and breathlessly described in the socialist dreams and science-fiction fantasies of dozens of British and American authors. Some of these visionaries -- such as Robert Owen, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Edward Bellamy, William Morris, Ebenezer Howard, and H.G. Wells -- are enduringly famous, while others were street vendors or amateur chemists who have been all but forgotten. Together, they fashioned strange and beautiful imaginary worlds built of synthetic gemstones, lacy metal colonnades, and unbreakable glass, staffed by robotic servants and teeming with flying carriages. As different as their futuristic visions could be, however, most of them were unified by a single, desperate plea: for humanity to have a future worth living, we must abandon our smoky, poor, chaotic Babylonian cities for a life in shimmering gardens.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publish Date: May 28th, 2024
  • Pages: 576
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 0.00in - 0.00in - 0.00in - 0.00lb
  • EAN: 9780198907756
  • Categories: Modern - 19th CenturyScience Fiction & FantasyModern - 19th Century

About the Author

Nathaniel Robert Walker, Associate Professor of Architectural History, The Catholic University of America

Nathaniel Robert Walker is Assistant Professor of Architectural History at the College of Charleston. He earned his PhD at Brown University, and studies the relationships between architecture, aesthetics, public space, urban design, political power, social fabric, spiritual longing, and dreams of the future, both utopian and apocalyptic. He has published essays in ARRIS, Buildings and Landscapes, the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, Utopian Studies, and a number of edited volumes, including Suffragette City: Women, Politics and the Built Environment, which he co-edited. He has curated two exhibitions dealing with the connections between architecture, urbanism, and human dreams: Building Expectations: Past and Present Visions of the Architectural Future (Bell Gallery, Providence), and The City Luminous: Architectures of Hope in an Age of Fear (City Gallery, Charleston, co-curated with J. Streit).

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