City on a Hill: Urban Idealism in America from the Puritans to the Present

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Product Details

Belknap Press
Publish Date
6.0 X 9.0 X 1.6 inches | 1.95 pounds

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About the Author

Alex Krieger is Professor in Practice of Urban Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he has been honored repeatedly as one of Harvard's most outstanding teachers. Krieger is coeditor of Mapping Boston and Towns and Town-Making Principles and coauthor of A Design Primer for Cities and Towns. He is also a Principal at NBBJ, a global firm offering services in architecture, urban design, and planning. He is a frequent advisor to mayors and their planning staffs, and has served on a number of national and regional boards and commissions, including the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.


City on a Hill takes us on a bold, comprehensive journey through the history of American city planning--or rather a history of the American built environment, due to the anti-urban bias that has historically been pinned to American culture...In a time where the future looks darker than ever, Alex Krieger reminds us of how utopian dreams once galvanized American (city planning) history, and shows that our current worries--rather than dreams--require new utopias to be imagined.--ArchDaily (10/08/2019)
Alex Krieger has written a classic. City on a Hill is a challenge to our country to reject mediocrity for aspiration. It should be taught in every school of planning and design in America and it belongs in the library of every citizen who passionately cares about the beauty, diversity, and livability of our country's towns and cities.--Joseph P. Riley, 10-term mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, and cofounder of the Mayors' Institute on City Design
Alex Krieger offers a lively and highly readable account of how, from the colonial era onward, Americans' utopian dreams have shaped our cities and can today provide hope for a more just, sustainable, and beautiful future. It is a most welcome view of a persistent strain of aspiration and optimism in our national life.--Drew Faust, President Emerita, Harvard University
In City on a Hill, Krieger brilliantly demolishes the myth that the ideals of America are somehow rooted in the countryside and disconnected from our cities. He has written not just a history of American urbanism but a history of our attitudes toward cities, reminding us how profoundly our cities, for all their failings, reflect our aspirations. It is a story he tells with such richness and nuance that this book becomes, for all intents and purposes, a history of America itself.--Paul Goldberger, architecture critic and author of Ballpark: Baseball in the American City
Panoramic, original, and insightful, City on a Hill is a genuine achievement, and reflects and embodies Krieger's decades-long involvement both with urban design and American urban history. This book deserves to be the most widely read comprehensive history of the American city.--Robert Fishman, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan
With vivid, clear prose and striking and complementary images, City on a Hill is a fantastic, comprehensive account of utopian visions in American city planning.--Frederick Steiner, University of Pennsylvania
It's very well done--a great sweep of material, grand ideas, full of complexity and nuance...A great achievement.--Richard J. Williams"Times Higher Education" (10/17/2019)
Provides us with a useful history of the influential ideals--some of them prophetic, some of them unrealistic, and others downright cruel and unjust--that have shaped American cities.--Shlomo Angel"Wall Street Journal" (11/08/2019)
From the Puritans via Jefferson, from millions of immigrants to the hippies and on through the builders of World's Fairs, Epcot and Las Vegas, each generation has seen America as a utopia, a promised land. But each time those utopias have either ingrained privilege, failed utterly or proved the next generation's nightmare. This is an extremely readable journey through the successive waves of building that exceptionalist place.-- (11/22/2019)
Illuminating...Krieger's historical analysis is perceptive and pointed, scholarly yet readable. He also speaks to the contemporary world, addressing the energy-wasting sprawl and leapfrog development that plague today's metropolitan regions.-- (12/18/2019)
A critically deep dive into the visions of utopia that have shaped American development, City on a Hill outlines the idealisms underlying various urban design movements, starting with the first wave of pilgrims looking for a new start. Krieger honors the grand ideas that have moved America and its cities forward over the centuries but also underwrites with a critical eye the lessons that can be learned as we move forward towards contemporary ideals of sustainability and smart cities today.-- (12/23/2019)
[A] carefully argued and cinematically sweeping history...In a field crowded with detailed histories of this kind, the book stands out as an invigorating study, rich in the history of ideas about what American urban settlements might have been and still may become.--Norman Weinstein"Architectural Record" (01/10/2020)