Lewis Mumford, the towering urban intellectual of the twentieth century, rarely got things wrong. His magisterial histories and trenchant criticism mapped out the evolution of cities and urban culture as functions of changing technology, the need to forge human relationships with nature, and the art and science of designing settlements and buildings. While deeply informed by history, Mumford’s urban analysis and critique very much engaged his contemporary city—or, more to his point, the regions in which we live and that are centered on cities. In this, Mumford mirrored the pragmatic challenge for the field of urban conservation, the subject of this issue of Change Over Time: cultivating a deep knowledge and appreciation of urban histories, and applying these notions to rework (not just critique) the urban present. Giving the urban past relevance in contemporary design, development, and planning is a project shared by Mumford and urban conservationists alike.
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Image: Lewis Mumford’s pencil sketch of Edinburgh, from September 1925, collects images of the city’s urban structure and architectural aspect. Visualizing cities—making and using images—contributed centrally to Mumford’s masterful narratives about urban evolution. (Lewis Mumford Papers, Kislak Center for Special Collections, University of Pennsylvania)