Astride the Open Road

LIFE, December 24, 1965

Updated: October 04, 2012

In this short article, Peter Blake, architect and editor-in-chief of Architectural Forum, explores some of the aspects that set European and American cities apart. He stresses the transitory and dynamic character of U.S. cities and the paramount importance the private car - and the structures built to accommodate it - gained for cityscapes and city life during the postwar decades. In contemporary discussion about the deficiencies of the development of American cities, especially in aesthetic terms, commentators often drew comparisons with more compact European cities. Blake also uses the European example as a means of comparison, but maintains that the United States must find its own suitable solution to balance the car and the city.

“The traditional American city is casual about permanence. It is, and always has been, some kind of way station along the Open Road… This central theme makes America (and, hence, American cities and buildings) quite different from the relatively static societies (and cities) of Europe. … Yet many of us (and not just architects, like myself) continue to believe that the ideal 20th or 21st Century American city should be a kind of Curtain-walled Florence, or Air-conditioned Paris. The American city isn’t like that at all, and it shouldn’t be.”

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Blake, Peter. "Astride the Open Road." LIFE, Dec. 24, 1965, p. 49.

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