Linear City

Linear City

By Karrie Jacobs
Designers everywhere are eyeing the Interstate Highway system's bounteous and boundless real estate with ideas from tiny turbines to maglev rail lines. Mid-century urban idealism may not be dead after all.

In December of 1965, Life magazine published a special issue titled "The U.S. City: Its Greatness Is at Stake."  The upshot was that America’s cities were on a "suicidal" course and bold new ideas would be needed to revive them. One such idea was the "linear city," a structure that might be a mile wide and as much as 20 miles long containing every possible urban function. The version Life presented, illustrated with a cross section that made it look like a feverish ant farm, was cooked up by an uncredited team of Princeton professors that included the not-yet-famous Peter Eisenman and Michael Graves. Called the Jersey Corridor Project, it consisted of two parallel strips, one for industry and the other "a nearly endless ‘downtown’ of homes, shops, services" with highways in the basement, running like a ribbon through an otherwise pristine natural landscape.

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