Levittown PA and Lewis Mumford
Writers, artists and social critics derided mass housing
developments as dull and shoddily built.
Lewis Mumford, was an American historian, sociologist,
philosopher of technology, and literary critic.
Particularly noted for his study of cities and urban architecture,
he had a broad career as a writer.
In 1952 Lewis Mumford stated about Levittown PA:
“ It is a one-class community on a great scale,
too congested for effective variety and
too spread out for social relationships.
Mechanically, it is admirably done.
Socially, the design is backward.”
Levitt replied "What would you call the places our homeowners left to move out here? We give them something better and something they can pay for."
While defending the integrity of his work, Levitt recognized some of Levittown’s shortcomings, particularly its lack of housing variety, and vowed to make improvements with his next project.
Harshly critical of urban sprawl, Mumford argues that the structure of modern cities is partially responsible for many social problems seen in western society. While pessimistic in tone, Mumford argues that urban planning should emphasize an organic relationship between people and their living spaces.
Mumford uses the example of the medieval city as the basis for the "ideal city," and claims that the modern city is too close to the Roman city (the sprawling megalopolis) which ended in collapse.
The suburb served as an asylum for the preservation of illusion. Here domesticity could prosper, oblivious of the pervasive regimentation beyond. This was not merely a child-centered environment; it was based on a childish view.