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Arthur P. Molella

Arthur P. Molella is Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Director of the Smithsonian InstitutionĀ¹s Lemelson Center. He is the co-editor (with Joyce Bedi) of Inventing for the Environment (2003, MIT Press).

Titles by This Author

Techno-Cities of the Twentieth Century

Industrialization created cities of Dickensian squalor that were crowded, smoky, dirty, and disease-ridden. By the beginning of the twentieth century, urban visionaries were looking for ways to improve living and working conditions in industrial cities. In Invented Edens, Robert Kargon and Arthur Molella trace the arc of one form of urban design, which they term the techno-city: a planned city developed in conjunction with large industrial or technological enterprises, blending the technological and the pastoral, the mill town and the garden city. Techno-cities of the twentieth century range from factory towns in Mussolini's Italy to the Disney creation of Celebration, Florida. Kargon and Molella show that the techno-city represents an experiment in integrating modern technology into the world of ideal life. Techno-cities mirror society's understanding of current technologies and, at the same time, seek to regain the lost virtues of the edenic pre-industrial village.

The idea of the techno-city transcended ideologies, crossed national borders, and spanned the entire twentieth century. Kargon and Molella map the concept through a series of exemplars. These include Norris, Tennessee, home to the Tennessee Valley Authority; Torviscosa, Italy, built by Italy's Fascist government to accommodate synthetic textile manufacturing (and featured in an early short by Michelangelo Antonioni); Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, planned by a team from MIT and Harvard; and, finally, Disney's Celebrationā€”perhaps the ultimate techno-city, a fantasy city reflecting an era in which virtual experiences are rapidly replacing actual ones.

Titles by This Editor

This ambitious book describes the many ways in which invention affects the environment (here defined broadly to include all forms of interaction between humans and nature). The book starts with nature itself and then leads readers to examine the built environment and then specific technologies in areas such as public health and energy.

Each part focuses on a single environmental issue. Topics range widely, from the role of innovation in urban landscapes to the relationship among technological innovation, public health, and the environment. Each part features an essay by a historian, an essay by a practitioner, and a "portrait of innovation" describing an individual whose work has made a difference. The mixture of historians and practitioners is critical because statements about the environment inevitably measure present and future conditions against those of the past. Early in the industrial revolution, smoke stacks were symbols of prosperity; at its end they were regarded as signs of pollution. Historical examples can also lead to the rediscovery of an old technology, as in the revival of straw bale construction. As it explores the history of invention for the environment, the book suggests many new ways to put the past to use for the common good.