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Peter L. Laurence

Although the theory and practice of renovating cities is ancient, and although the term is still used to refer to similar practices today, “urban renewal” typically refers to the large-scale, federally funded redevelopment projects that took place in US cities in the 1950s and 1960s. Such projects wrought dramatic physical transformations and caused controversial social upheaval. Urban renewal in this sense came into being with the US Housing Act of 1954, although it evolved out of a history of government-funded slum clearance and housing project construction dating back to the 1930s. Following two decades of slum clearance and model housing projects including First Houses (1935), Williamsburg Houses (1937) and Stuyvesant Town (1947), all in New York, the US Housing Act of 1949 was signed into law with broad political support due to a national postwar housing shortage. As the immediate legislative predecessor of urban renewal legislation, the Housing Act of ...