Book Review of Magic Lands by John M. Findlay

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Harvey Mudd College
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Magic Lands is a book written by an author called John Findlay. University of California Press published the book in 1992. Many people might consider this book backdated, but the research that is presented by the author of the book still holds ground to present date. The primary purpose of Findlay was to examine urban landscape in the modern and developing west. The author argues that the reason behind planned communities was basically to provide alternatives to urbanization (Findlay 12). He particularly looks at four major cases; Disneyland, Silicon Valley, Suncity and Seattle World's Fair. He portrays "magic lands" as a source of recreation, inspiration, and optimism for the rest of the country.

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At the onset, Magic Lands present rapid growth of the West at the mid-century and Findlay attributes the population increase as well as the changing landscape of the military spending during the Second World War, and the G.I.Bill drove post-war boomG.I.Bill. Subsequently, he argues that the new industries such as Hewlett-packed in Silicon Valley and Boeing aided the growth by leading the West to new economic heights, creating new employment opportunities in the process (Findlay 56). The new jobs created led to increased demand for housing and shopping plazas due to increased population migrating from other regions in search of employment. This further resulted in the growth of the horizontal urban Community which extended away from the major urban center creating a sprawl. The growth drove away from the Westerners in planned communities to seek alternatives to urban lifestyles and even entertainments. These alternatives to planned communities varied drastically: Walt Disney envisioned Disneyland both as family entertainment and as his example as the city of tomorrow.' Stanford, on the other hand, built an empire that was connected to the natural geography and climate to draw its workforce (Findlay, 85). Suncity transformed the natural landscape to provide an ideal active retirement community. Seattle rehabilitated a run-down neighborhood to accommodate it's 1962 world fair.

In each of these cases, the changes transformed their adjacent communities geographically, economically and culturally. The reason for the transformations of these landscapes was constant but the methods varied. Walt Disney supervised the construction of Disneyland, envisioned his planned community as an example for the entire country but Sanford's Industrial Park IE Silicon Valley never had a blueprint but rather a goal to build a leading high-tech industrial center. Suncity on the other end envisioned a drive for profit and any other benefit hence the construction of the rich and green retirement community in the Arizona desert (Findlay, 58). Alternatively, Seattle's world fair aimed to revitalize its downtown district, but the sad thing is that it failed. The results of these communities influenced national ideas on architecture and urban landscapes. Although the magic land presents the fore-planned communities, they bare very remote semblance. They had individual uniqueness. In the last sections of the book, Findlay tries to bring out the impact of these communities today in places such as Irvin and the US (Findlay, 154). These organized societies had broad social and environmental impact which ought to have been given more prominence. Magic Lands is otherwise a captivating read especially for those who may be interested in urban development and growth of the American West.

Findlay presents a well-researched argument about urban development in the modern west. The ideas presented resonates with the contemporary environment hence it has been able to influence the modern architectural designs in the west. As a result, any reader who likes inspiration or motivation books can quickly get it to understand the content and the objective.

The critique of the book is that there are instances in which it nullifies its arguments hence creating confusion in the reader's mind. For example, the book argues that the lack of downtown is what made western cities unique. Later on in the book, the author claims that the magic lands like Disney and Stanford Industrial Park end up becoming the downtown cultural districts that the cities had previously lacked. By saying that the Magic lands now made western cities to have downtown district nullifies his early argument about the unique of the western cities. Additionally, the comparison of the cities is tenuous. Each of these communities is different and unique from each other hence it is absurd making a comparison between them.

In conclusion, the book offers a good read for individuals who want to understand modern architecture and the development of urban and modern western cities. It excels in presenting details about the four planned communities that it uses to explain the modern development of cities in the west. However, there are instances where the author tends to conflict in his arguments hence confusing the reader. Additionally, the book is over 20 years old and may not be able to hold its arguments due to the developments that Western cities have undergone. This is a must read piece for modern anyone who wants to get inspired, love architecture and urban landscapes.

Works Cited

Findlay, John M. Magic Lands: Western Cityscapes and American Culture After 1940. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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