The Lewis Mumford decades: Studies in Architectural history, criticism, and urbanism, 1922-1962

Robert Wojtowicz, University of Pennsylvania


Between 1922 and 1962, Lewis Mumford was America's most important and influential architectural critic. While he was a self-described "generalist" whose interests covered a vast intellectual territory, his most lasting distinction has been as an observer of the built environment. Mumford chronicled the birth and adolescence of the modern movement in the United States, exploring its indigenous sources along with contemporary European developments. In Sticks and Stones (1924) and The Brown Decades (1931), he broke new ground in the history of late-nineteenth-century American architecture. Mumford reached an even broader audience through "The Sky Line" and "The Art Galleries," columns which he wrote for The New Yorker. He stressed social as well as esthetic concerns in his criticism, believing that the basis of an "organic" American architecture lay not in the creation of a modern style, but in its adaptation to human need. As the collective focus of civilization, the city occupied a special place in Mumford's architectural history and criticism. A follower of both Patrick Geddes and Ebenezer Howard, Mumford was the foremost advocate in the United States of garden cities closely integrated with their surrounding regions. This dissertation examines Mumford's multi-dimensional career as an art and architectural historian, critic, and urbanologist. More than any other intellectual observer, his writings reveal the complexity of architectural thought and practice during this period.

Subject Area

Architecture|American studies|Urban planning|Area planning & development|Biographies

Recommended Citation

Wojtowicz, Robert, "The Lewis Mumford decades: Studies in Architectural history, criticism, and urbanism, 1922-1962" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9026671.