Defining Urban Design

Defining Urban Design

Yale University Press

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Ciam Architects and the Formation of a Discipline, 1937-69

In this meticulously researched book, Eric Mumford traces how members of the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM), such as Walter Gropius, Josep Lluís Sert, and their American associates, developed the discipline of urban design from the 1940s to the 1960s. Now widely known, this field has had significant influence in university departments and building projects around the world, but its roots in the urbanism of CIAM are not well understood.

CIAM proposed a new type of architecture, one that drew on the strategies of both modern art and engineering to promote efficiency and rational city planning. Mumford challenges the idea that this modern urbanism only resulted in the clearing of historical neighborhoods in favor of the public housing that would famously fail. Rather, Mumford argues, CIAM goals were instrumental in forming the field of urban design, and it was the rejection of these goals by politicians and bureaucrats, rather than their implementation, that led to the now familiar and lamentable results of urban renewal and metropolitan sprawl.


Eric Paul Mumford, PhD, is Rebecca and John Voyles Professor of Architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. He has published numerous books on the history and theory of modern architecture and urbanism, most recently Designing the modern city: urbanism since 1850 (Yale University Press, 2018).

Mumford is also the co-curator for the exhibition, Ando and Le Corbusier, at the new Tadao Ando designed Wrightwood 659 Gallery in Chicago (fall 2018). He was also a co-curator of the 2018 Transformative Visions: Landscape, Art, and Design for the East End of the Danforth Campus exhibition at the Kemper Museum of Art, Washington University.

Mumford grew up in north central Ohio and graduated from Harvard College in 1980, where he wrote a history department thesis on the origins of modern historiography in sixteenth century European intellectual history. He received his Master of Architectural degree from MIT in 1983 and then practiced architecture in New York City, where he obtained his architectural license in 1986. He then received his PhD in Architecture from Princeton University in 1996, where he wrote a dissertation on CIAM, the International Congresses of Modern Architecture, advised by the British architect and theorist Alan Colquhoun, Mary McLeod at Columbia University, and others. This was later published as his first book, The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928-1960 (MIT Press, 2000). He has taught as a visiting professor at Harvard University (1996, 2004) and at Columbia University (1991-93). He lives in the St Louis area with his wife and two grown daughters.

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