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Title: Developing Expertise: The Architecture of Real Estate, 1908-1965
Authors: Stevens, Sara Kathryn
Advisors: Whiting, Sarah
Contributors: Architecture Department
Keywords: architecture
real estate
real estate development
United States
urban policy
urban renewal
Subjects: Architecture
American history
Urban planning
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Over the course of the twentieth century, how were real estate developers and architects involved in transforming their own professional practices and the built form of American cities? My dissertation uses historical, architectural, and urban analysis to show how real estate developers and architects in mid-twentieth century America shaped cities as well as housing and urban policy, encouraging suburban-style growth at the edges and centers of American cities. During the first half of the twentieth century, American architects and real estate developers deployed a new kind of expertise that resulted in a qualitatively different set of professional practices and forms of urban expansion. As urban land development shifted in scale, from streetcar suburbs of a few blocks to Levittown-like subdivisions covering thousands of acres, real estate developers gained new knowledge about where and how to attain economies of scale and financial stability. The experiments these developers oversaw in greenfield development--untouched by municipal restrictions, tangential to existing urban fabric--offered new methods for creating profitable, repeatable developments. The legal, administrative, and aesthetic techniques invented for greenfield development influenced policy as developers advised policy makers through their professional organizations. In the postwar years, real estate developers found new advantages in applying greenfield rules to downtown sites. Urban renewal legislation further encouraged large land-clearing projects in urban locations across the country. The increased expertise resulted in more highly controlled and homogenized landscapes while nevertheless opening the door to a new scale of intensity in development. This dissertation studies these changes through three developers from three cities--J.C. Nichols in Kansas City, Herbert Greenwald in Chicago, and William Zeckendorf in New York. Biographical analysis connects the expertise of these individuals to the larger historical trends in their profession. Two thematic studies--one on professionalization that studies the Urban Land Institute and another on finance and the life insurance industry's funding of urban renewal projects--build the larger narrative about how expertise and finance operated in real estate and architecture. The connection this project will make between architecture and real estate development will inform how expertise turns a tract of land into profit.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Architecture

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