Undercurrents of urban modernism : water, architecture, and landscape in California and the American West




Faletti, Rina Cathleen

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"Undercurrents of Urban Modernism: Water, Architecture, and Landscape in California and the American West" conducts an art-historical analysis of historic waterworks buildings in order to examine cultural values pertinent to aesthetiteics in relationships between water, architecture and landscape in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Visual study of architectural style, ornamental iconography, and landscape features reveals cultural values related to water, water systems, landscape/land use, and urban development. Part 1 introduces a historiography of ideas of "West" and "landscape" to provide a context for defining ways in which water and landscape were conceived in the United States during turn-of-the-century urban development in the American West. Part 2 provides a historical context for California waterworks with a discussion of major U.S. city waterworks from 1799 to 1893 in Philadelphia, Louisville, New York, and New Orleans. Primary architectural styles discussed are Greek Revival, Egyptian Revival, and Roman Revival. Part 3 presents the dissertation's central object of study: waterworks and hydropower architecture for the greater San Francisco Bay Area between 1860 and 1939. From substations to dams, architects who designed waterworks structures drew from historical revival, academic eclecticism, and structural design traditions. The specific waterworks structures anchoring inquiry in this chapter are two round, peripteral, neoclassical water temples built for San Francisco's water supply to mark key underground aqueduct features. I analyze these two temples--the Sunol Water Temple from 1910 and the Pulgas Water Temple from 1939--in formal terms as well as from within broader urban and historical contexts. Part 4 culminates the dissertation with a case study of two dams whose aesthetic features were obscured by unneeded buttresssing when concerns for dam safety arose after a Southern California dam failure had killed several hundred people in 1928. I inquire into a cultural ambivalence stemming that seems to stem from historical conflicts determining the relative aesthetics of "use" and "beauty" in utilitarian waterworks structures. The overall questions in this dissertation inquire into ways in which aesthetic aspects of architectural design of waterworks structures expressed cultural values regarding water, architecture, and landscape in California between 1860 and 1939.




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