“There Must Be No Ruins”: Ruinophobia and Urban Morphology in Turn-of-the-Century New York
The frenetic rhythm in which turn-of-the-century American urban space changed as a result of population growth, the dominance of economic motives and technological prowess generated cultural assumptions of America’s future greatness that left no physical room for ruins. This forward-looking perspective found its materialization in spatial forms through “creative destruction” strategies that dominated turn-of-the-century urban politics. This essay explores nonfictional representations of New York City and contends that nineteenth-century American ruins elicited concern about America’s self-fashioning as a young nation oriented towards social progress and unfettered material pursuit. The belief in an uninterrupted linear narrative of progress made New York the place where newness and reconstruction were physically demonstrated in the city’s built environment and would not let be undermined by urban ruination.
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