Alison B. Hirsch, "City Choreographer: Lawrence Halprin in Urban Renewal America" (U Minnesota Press, 2014)


Lawrence Halprin, one of the central figures in twentieth-century American landscape architecture, is well known to city-watchers for his work on San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square, Seattle’s Freeway Park, downtown Portland’s open-space sequence, the FDR Memorial on the National Mall, and the California planned community of Sea Ranch. Less well known is his distinctive, process-based approach to design—his theoretical commitment, on the one hand, to a dynamic “choreography” of bodies moving through space, and, on the other, the visually arresting notational techniques of “scoring” he devised to represent such movement and carry out his projects in consultation with the public. In City Choreographer: Lawrence Halprin in Urban Renewal America (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), Alison Bick Hirsch addresses Halprin’s built work and community workshops in equal measure, pointing up important tensions that his participatory “Take Part Process” never quite extinguished: between manipulation and facilitation, universality and difference, conscious choice and emergent chance. Through Lawrence Halprin and his wife, the modern dancer Anna Halprin, Hirsch opens onto a broader history of postwar landscape and urban design, and onto some of the complicated politics in which proponents and critics of Urban Renewal alike found themselves immersed. Hirsch has written a decisive work that joins the intellectual, social, political, and aesthetic histories of urbanism. Geographers, historians, and urbanists of many stripes will learn from her able analysis.
Peter Ekman teaches in the departments of geography at Sonoma State University and the University of California, Berkeley. He received the Ph.D. from Berkeley in 2016, and is at work on two book projects on the cultural and historical geography of urban America across the long twentieth century. He can be reached at

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