New Deal Utopias
During his presentation, Jason Reblando discussed his new photography book New Deal Utopias. The book offers an opportunity to reflect one of the most ambitious but overlooked federal programs in American history. During the Great Depression, the U.S. government constructed three planned communities–Greenbelt, Maryland; Greenhills, Ohio; and Greendale, Wisconsin, to house displaced farmers and poor urban dwellers. Collectively known as the “Greenbelt Towns,” the housing program embodied the hope that these new model communities would usher in a new way of American life based on cooperation, not individualism. As the design and philosophy of the towns were inspired by Sir Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City principles, New Deal Utopias focuses on the designed landscapes and built environments of the towns, meditating on the connection of “town” and “country.” Howard envisioned cities where nature would be part of everyday life, and residents would have the social and economic advantages of living in a community with each other. Using Farm Security Administration photographs of the construction of the Greenbelt Towns, as well as Jason Reblando’s contemporary photographs of the communities, the proposed lecture discusses a fascinating chapter of architectural and planning history during a time when the government enacted bold and ambitious plans to protect who Franklin D. Roosevelt called the “Forgotten Man.” New Deal Utopias explores how we continue to grapple with the complex roles of housing, nature, and government in contemporary life.
Video shot by Troy Gueno and edited by Nathan Walker of Lucid Creative Agency.