Theses Doctoral

Designing Natural Advantages: Environmental Visions, Civic Ideals, and Architecture for Community, 1920 – 1970

Rhee, Chae-Young

This dissertation focuses on a conservative, affluent, and white community—Santa Barbara, California to chart the rise a popular, aesthetic environmentalism in the twentieth-century United States. Acknowledged by environmentalists and historians as a principal site of the emergence of modern environmentalism after a 1969 offshore oil spill, the city’s reputation had long rested on the idea that the place epitomized California’s—and thus the nation’s—riches of natural beauty and climate. Beginning in the 1920s residents came together in a shared project of transforming the urban fabric under the belief that their city situated between the mountains and ocean could enjoy the benefits of modern, urban American life while avoiding its excesses and ills. Their work underscores how commitments and visions shared among individuals became a domesticated and inwardly-oriented and highly localized environmental politics that functioned as a lateral way to depoliticize ideas about the environment, urban life, and community belonging. Physical transformations structured conceptions of the environment over time, but also provided visible evidence for them. Exploring granular details including specificities about place and local attachments put into relief the possibilities, but also the shortcomings, of lived experience as a catalyst for environmental action.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Scott, Felicity Dale
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 9, 2018