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Hardcover | Out of Print | 572 pp. | 6.8 x 8.7 in | November 1994 | ISBN: 9780262023719
Paperback | $55.00 X | £45.95 | 572 pp. | 6.8 x 8.7 in | February 1996 | ISBN: 9780262522113
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The City of Collective Memory

Its Historical Imagery and Architectural Entertainments


Christine Boyer faces head-on the crisis of the city in the late twentieth century, taking us on a fascinating journey through theaters and museums, panoramas and maps, buildings and institutions that are used to construct a new reading of the city as a system of representation, a complex cultural entity. Boyer brings together elements and concepts from geography, critical theory, architecture, literature, and painting in a synthetic and readable work that is broad in its reach and original in its insights. What finally emerges is a sense of the city reinvigorated with richness and potential.

The City of Collective Memory describes a series of different visual and mental models by which the urban environment has been recognized, depicted, and planned. Boyer identifies three major "maps": one common to the traditional city—the city as a work of art; one characteristic of the modern city—the city as panorama; and one appropriate to the contemporary city—the city as spectacle. It is a richly illustrated and documented study that pays considerable attention to the normally hidden and unspoken codes that regulate the order imposed on and derived from the city. A wide range of secondary historical literature and theoretical work is considered, with evident debts to structuralist analysis of urban form represented by Aldo Rossi, as well to much post-structuralist criticism from Walter Benjamin to the present.

About the Author

M. Christine Boyer is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor in the School of Architecture at Princeton University and the author of Dreaming the Rational City, The City of Collective Memory (both published by the MIT Press), Le Corbusier: Homme de Lettres, and other books.


“Reading Boyer's provocative, erudite book has the fascination of a city walk when one is never sure what will be next inview...[T]his is assuredly a rich, illuminating book.”
Andrew Mead, The Architects' Journal


Winner of the 1994 Lewis Mumford Prize given by the Society for American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH).