Story posted February 03, 2011
Event date(s): March 28, 2011 — March 29, 2011
Brown University, Department of American Civilization and Urban Studies Program
Monday, March 28 7:00 pm
Location: Searles 315
Samuel Zipp is a cultural, intellectual, and urban historian with particular interest in 20th century cities, the built environment, United States history since World War II, and nonfiction writing. He has written articles and reviews for a number of publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reviews in American History, The Baffler, Metropolis, American Studies International, Southern California Quarterly, Cabinet, and In These Times. He earned his Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. His book, Manhattan Projects: The Rise and Fall of Urban Renewal in Cold War New York has just been published by Oxford University Press. In his public talk, which will derive from his long-awaited book, the first major scholarly study of urban renewal in America's largest city, Zipp will analyze how urban renewal in New York is best understood as more than a set of national or municipal policies. It was also a highly contested vision and cultural symbol, one that was shaped by its interactions with the political culture of the domestic Cold War. In the postwar era the term "urban renewal" came to be understood, by both its proponents and its critics, as a symbol of the way that superblock urban planning and modernist architecture was remaking the daily lives of city-dwellers. Specifically, Zipp examines iconic postwar sites—the United Nations Headquarters complex, Metropolitan Life's middle-income housing development Stuyvesant Town, the vast belts of public housing in East Harlem, and the Lincoln Square renewal area that included Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts—and shows how they were physically and culturally constructed as agents and emblems of urban transformation and social change. Zipp has received support for his work from the Graham Foundation for the Fine Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, Brown University, and Yale University. He has also published scholarly articles in Planning Perspectives, Reviews in American History, and Southern California Quarterly as well as general audience essays in The New York Times, In These Times, and the Washington Post.
How did Zipp become so fascinated by cities? Partly it was growing up in Washington, D.C., but his interest really took hold through a job as a bike messenger. He says zipping along the streets of San Francisco gave him a real appreciation for urban geography and the need to learn a city's social, political, and economic structure from the inside out. He even brings music into his maps of these cities - and will teach a class about the interaction between urban environments and the music that springs to life from the streets. (His undergraduate thesis examined punk music's rise in Washington. In sum, Zipp calls himself a "cultural and political historian of the post-World War II United States, interested in urbanism and issues of the built environment."
Zipp calls himself a "cultural and political historian of the post-World War II United States, interested in urbanism and issues of the built environment."