Anthony Raynsford

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20072008 Forum on Origins

Anthony Raynsford

Visiting Assistant Professor, Temple University

Art History

Modernism and the Archaic City: The Pre-Industrial Past in the Imagination of 20th Century Urban Design

The rhetoric of origin has conspicuously structured the imagery of modernist urban design. Criticizing the apparent chaos of the present, many architects and planners of the twentieth century imagined a coherent order in the archaic cities of the preindustrial past. Moreover, they employed detailed examples of preindustrial urban forms in order address what they saw as the most urgent problems of contemporary cities. Surprisingly however, few historians have commented on this phenomenon. Revising standard accounts of modernism's break with history, Dr. Raynsford maps out previously submerged connections among the images and discourses of urban design. He argues that the modernist idealization of archaic form was central to the genesis and definition of the modernist city.