Reviews of my three books: Modern Man: The Life of Le Corbusier, Architect of Tomorrow (New Harvest, 2014); Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City (Random House, 2009); and This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006)
Reviews & praise for Modern Man
|Modern Man: The Life of Le Corbusier, Architect of Tomorrow Library Journal Reviews, February 13, 2015
Modern Man, Briefly Noted, The New Yorker, February 2, 2015
Book review: Modern Man: The Life of Le Corbusier, The Washington Post, December 19, 2014
Top 10 Books 2015, Planetizen, December 9, 2014
Books for the design buff on your holiday list, San Francisco Chronicle, December 8, 2014
Gift guide: Books about architecture, San Francisco Chronicle, November 28, 2014
The Ecology of Modernism, The Economist, November 15, 2014
Journalist Flint (Wrestling with Moses) recounts the life and times of the legendary architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier, and provides illuminating details of his most iconic projects. An introduction outlines the artist’s influences from his youth in the Swiss watchmaking village of La Chaux-de-Fonds where he learned to draw to his appreciation for the Athens Acropolis. From there, Flint explains Le Corbusier’s first foray into urban planning with the housing project Ville Contemporaire and his first major accomplishment, La Ville Savoye, a “flying saucer of a building” in suburban Poissy, France. This is followed by an in-depth examination of the artist through his work, including Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles and the church at Ronchamp with its stunning roof design. On Le Corbusier’s process, Flint delves into his five points of architecture, featuring “the essential ingredients of modernism” and the unit of measure he called the Modular. Flint does not idealize his subject, noting his infidelity, “remote and mercurial” personality, and relationships with Nazi sympathizers, but the bulk of this book focuses specifically on the architect’s résumé rather than the man himself. Flint is most insightful in the epilogue where he considers Le Corbusier’s complicated legacy, “widely reviled” by critics but also considered a prescient provider of solutions to urban overpopulation. Publishers Weekly
The life and work of an iconic modernist. In 1920, Swiss-born architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris changed his name to Le Corbusier (1887-1965). The dramatic “single moniker,” writes journalist Flint (Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City, 2009, etc.), “signaled his break with the past…and the embrace of the modern.” The author ably chronicles Le Corbusier’s pursuit of the modern in designs that remained remarkably consistent during his long career. In villas, apartment complexes and public buildings, Le Corbusier conceived stark, concrete structures perched on concrete columns, with open-plan interiors swathed in natural light and containing minimalist furniture, such as the metal tubing and leather chairs designed by a member of his firm. His wife found the ambience dispiriting: It was like living in a hospital, she complained, or “a dissecting lab!” Some clients, although impressed by the theatricality of the imposing architecture, found living within its walls uncomfortable, especially in a villa that became inundated with water after every rain. Le Corbusier had grander ambitions than simply designing for wealthy clients. During World War II, he nimbly allied himself with the Vichy government, hoping to redesign Paris after the war’s destruction; in 1945, he easily—and with no repercussions—switched sides. He envisioned entire cities “with places and buildings for all human activities by which the citizens can live a full and harmonious life.” Constructed rigidly on a grid, with large spaces between buildings comprised of small modular apartments, the cities would include schools, shops and extensive roof gardens representing the natural landscape. Critics asserted that he was blind to people’s real lives and the interactions that created community, but Le Corbusier believed that well-designed density, “a repeatable urban form,” was the overriding need of the future. Flint’s life of “the original star architect” astutely captures Le Corbusier’s hubris and vulnerabilities and makes a persuasive case for his artistic significance. Kirkus Reviews
Engrossing and insightful, Modern Man is as much a wonderfully readable, intimate profile of Le Corbusier as it is a lively narrative about the whole notion of modernity.
Anthony Flint has given us a vision of Le Corbusier that his subject might well have designed, with powerful research underpinning sleek, bold insights….An extraordinary guidebook to the world around us and the world we may yet inherit.
We know so much about Le Corbusier the theorist, and so little about Corbu the man. In Modern Man, Flint puts real flesh and blood on the most influential and enigmatic architect of the 20thCentury, and the times that made him.
A lively, absorbing account of the figure who more than any other emblematized the figure of the “creative destroyer” that was so central to the rhetoric of architectural modernism. Flint underscores Le Corbusier’s somewhat embattled relation with a modern world that he alternately celebrated and criticized for its failure to be–according to his own very exacting prescriptions–modern enough.
Reviews & praise for Wrestling with Moses
Summer reading picks, Brattleboro Reformer, July 15, 2010
Scrappy neighborhood activist Jane Jacobs faces off against notorious “power broker” Robert Moses in this history of mid-20th-century New York City urban planning.
Former Boston Globe reporter Anthony Flint recounts how activist and writer Jane Jacobs stopped the seemingly unstoppable master builder Robert Moses. Beginning in the 1930s, Moses consolidated his enormous power through the administrations of various mayors and governors, revamping the city parks network and constructing a mind-boggling array of projects including bridges, highways, Shea Stadium, Lincoln Center and 10 giant public swimming pools. Although highly skilled at crushing opponents, Moses was eventually outmaneuvered in the 1950s and ’60s by Jacobs, whose landmark The Death and Life of Great American Cities was a war cry against urban renewal projects that destroyed existing neighborhoods. Jacobs derailed Moses’s plans to run two highways through lower Manhattan (one in what would become trendy SoHo). But, says Flint (This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America), who is now at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Moses’s tarnished reputation has been undergoing rehabilitation recently as cities realize the value of reliable infrastructure. Lucid and articulate … Photos. (July 28) Publishers Weekly May 25, 2009
“Wrestling with Moses is an epic tale filled with nuanced lessons. Flint is passionate in supporting Jacobs’s once radical but now commonly shared views, yet he deftly leaves room for Moses. This is an indispensable read for anyone interested in the shaping of cities.”
“In this gripping and inspiring story of one woman who galvanized her community against powerful, destructive forces, Anthony Flint gets to the heart of what makes neighborhoods—and cities—thrive.”
“Jane Jacobs, the crownless queen of cities, defended New York against the assault that would have destroyed its pattern of the daily life. Wrestling with Moses is a masterly tale of how her mandate endures.”
“Anthony Flint has written a riveting account of a struggle between opposites that forever redefined the American city. With no formal training in urban planning, Jane Jacobs had the audacity to take on Robert Moses and the passion to save old New York from the wrecking ball.”
“Beautifully written, Wrestling with Moses is a step back in time to the bohemia of Greenwich Village in the 1960s, when Bob Dylan’s music filled the streets and revolution was in the air. As a woman standing up to power, Jane Jacobs blazed a trail. This is a remarkable book.”
“Anthony Flint has not only captured the life and times of the remarkable Jane Jacobs but, more important, he has delineated the amazing cast of characters — politicians, design professionals, neighbors, and citizens — that populated her life and her city. Wrestling with Moses will soon become classic, essential reading for anyone concerned with cities, past, present, and future.”
Reviews & praise for This Land
From the June 2006 issue of The Atlantic Monthly:
From the May 15, 2006 Library Journal:
From the May 28 2006 (Southern New Jersey) Courier Post:
June 2006 Planning magazine — Planners Library
“This important book is spot on in its analysis of America’s deepening land-use problems, and refreshingly upbeat in its account of win-win solutions arising around the country. Flint’s fingertip knowledge of detail is especially to be admired.”
“With evidence growing regarding the impact of density on innovation and economic growth, Anthony Flint’s excellent This Land couldn’t come along at a better time. It’s an essential read for those working to understand and build more vibrant and livable communities.”
“A superb feat of reporting and analysis. Our intensifying urban land use wars—most notably, between new movements on behalf of better-planned, more compact growth and those who have mobilized, explicitly or effectively, in defense of sprawl–have rarely seemed more absorbing, and have never been rendered more comprehensibly. For anyone who cares about these issues, a must read.”
“Among the hundreds of books about metropolitan growth, This Land stands out as an extremely engaging and perceptive chronicle of the current state of the smart growth and new urbanist movements. Highlighting the fundamental American tension between individual and collective purposes, Flint compellingly articulates the challenges ahead.”
“A revealing portrait of how America lives today. His trenchant chronicling of the emerging smart growth movement’s challenge to the suburban sprawl ethos is a clarion call for a national conversation about how the country should grow.”