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American Infrastructure Gardens: 19th century exhibitions as sites for the cultivation of new urban technologies

Catherine Bonier

“Horticulture Hall and the beautiful garden Avenue, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, U.S.A.” Underwood & Underwood Pub. (1902) Image Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Bonier, C., “American Infrastructure Gardens: 19th century exhibitions as sites for the cultivation of new urban technologies”
Urbanism and Urbanity: Nineteenth Century Studies Association 35th Annual Conference / Chicago, Illinois, March 2014

Nineteenth-century sanitary fairs and exhibitions such as those held in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago can be interpreted as “infrastructure gardens,” sites for the planting and cultivation of new technologies. Utilities were embedded in the land at these events and tested for their effects on public health and civic enjoyment. As new infrastructures were being threaded through rapidly developing cities, they faced technical difficulties as well as public resistance. Exhibitions and fairs functioned as controlled testing grounds that provided greater space and freedom to cultivate and to demonstrate new utilities. Gas, water, and electricity were a part of these displays, carefully charted as the interlaced structures supporting urban entertainment and promising greater comfort and ease at home.

http://www.ncsaweb.net/Portals/0/Conference%20programs%20past/NCSA%20Urbansim%20Program%202014.pdf

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