Course Description

450.791 - A Cultural History of New York City II: World’s Fair to World Trade Center

This interdisciplinary course begins with a look at what architect Rem Koolhaas has called "Delirious New York": the competitive mania of the skyscraper wars, and the rambunctious and over-the-top worlds of Coney Island, Times Square, and Broadway theater in the early 20th century. We then turn to the decisive turning point of the 1930s when, in the face of the Great Depression, New York City witnessed some of its greatest building projects: the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and the monumental projects overseen by NYC's controversial "master builder", Robert Moses. The New York World's Fair of 1939 serves as a fitting symbol for what the Fair itself proclaimed as "The World of Tomorrow", the world of middle class consumerism, the automobile, the highway and the suburb. A major focus of our study is the unfolding and increasingly controversial career of Robert Moses in attempting to implement this 'World of Tomorrow', and the gathering forces of opposition galvanized by the book The Death and Life of Great American Cities written by the Greenwich Village activist Jane Jacobs.