chapter  5
Chicago – Superblockism: Chicago’s Elastic Grid
Pages 20

The 11 September 2001 destruction of Minoru Yamasaki’s World Trade Center

rapidly rekindled the long-standing debate over the viability and desirability of

the superblock as an urban type. Condemnations forcefully outnumbered

endorsements: “Break up the 16-acre Trade Center superblock” was the dis-

missive refrain of many a newspaper editorial. “Restore the traditional street

grid so as to restore neighborhoods [. . . and] espouse community”1 and other

such suggestions directly echoed the urban critiques penned by urban advo-

cate Jane Jacobs 43 years ago when she took on Lewis Mumford, Clarence

Stein, Henry Wright, and the rest of the Garden City movement in The Death

and Life of Great American Cities: “The Garden City planners and their ever

increasing following among housing reformers, students and architects,”

Jacobs complained, “were indefatigably popularizing the ideas of the super-

block, the project neighborhood, the unchangeable plan, and grass, grass,

grass; what is more they were successfully establishing such attributes as the

hallmarks of humane, socially responsible, functional high-minded planning.”2