Cover image for Divided we stand : a biography of New York's World Trade Center
Divided we stand : a biography of New York's World Trade Center
Darton, Eric.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 241 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
NA6233.N5 W673 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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When the World Trade Towers in New York City were erected at the Hudson's edge, they led the way to a real estate boom that was truly astonishing. Divided We Stand reveals the coming together and eruption of four volatile elements: super-tall buildings, financial speculation, globalization, and terrorism. The Trade Center serves as a potent symbol of the disastrous consequences of undemocratic planning and development.This book is a history of that skyscraping ambition and the impact it had on New York and international life. It is a portrait of a building complex that lives at the convergence point of social and economic realities central not only to New York City but to all industrial cities and suburbs. A meticulously researched historical account based on primary documents, Divided We Stand is a contemporary indictment of the prevailing urban order in the spirit of Jane Jacobs's mid-century classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities .

Author Notes

Eric Darton currently teaches writing at N.Y.U.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Darton provides an amusing and insightful look at urban architecture, politics, and commerce, with New York's World Trade Center at the pivot point. He traces the history of Manhattan back to negotiations with the Algonquins that eventually led to the "transformation of land into real estate," through its early days as a shipping center to its current focus as a center of commerce. Darton explores the history of the skyscraper as the measure of the growth of technology, wealth, and ambition--buildings as monuments to commerce and objects of various protests from society's malcontents. Various architects and planners have vied to either preserve some human scale in the urban density or to build as many structures as possible in geographically limited space. Darton cites LeCorbusier, creator of the "autocratic urban ideal," as a major proponent of Manhattan's superblocks, choked with skyscrapers. To this highly detailed and informative book, Darton brings obvious affection for his subject. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Despite its coy and misleading subtitle, this is a mesmerizing history of how deep-seated struggles over architectural aspirations, economics, city planning and the exigencies of a democracy undergird the New York cityscape. Taking the planning and building of the twin towers of the World Trade Center as a point of departure, Darton treats readers to a smoothly written and provocative study of everything from the potentially utopian nature of cities to the role of the automobile in urban redevelopment, and from the aesthetics and politics of constructing tall structures (including the Eiffel Tower) to a history of the contested development of lower Manhattan. While grounded in the theories of such diverse thinkers as Jane Jacobs, Peter Kropotkin, John Ruskin, Marshall Berman, LeCorbusier and Lewis Mumford, Darton's dramatic narrative never loses sight of the strong personalities and (often unscrupulous) political hardball that reshaped Manhattan. Central figures include such power players as master planner Robert Moses ("who by his own description hacked his way through New York with a meat ax") and investment developer David Rockefeller and his brother, Nelson, the governor of New York State (whom Darton casually compares to gangsters). A professor of media, technology and cultural studies at Hunter College, Darton is best when elucidating the economic interests behind urban renewal and the destruction of neighborhoods that has often ensued in more than 40 years of Manhattan redevelopment, culminating in the building of one of New York's iconic landmarks. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Among the most widely recognized of human-made structures, New York City's World Trade Center is both beloved for its photogenic skyline presence and vilified for symbolizing bloated bureaucracy and heartless modernism. These two books comprise initial attempts to flesh out the WTC's history, appraise its place in 20th-century architecture, and judge its success as urban design and economic planning. Neither author is an authority on architecture, city planning, politics, or economics, and both treat the WTC itself as a backdrop to the political maneuvering that made its creation possible. Gillespie (American studies, Rutgers) pens an absorbing account incorporating personal interviews and observations, exuding enthusiasm and empathy. In striking contrast, Darton's (cultural studies, Hunter Coll.) study brims with irony, invective, and irrelevant digressions. Where Gillespie sees the New York Port Authority, the WTC's parent, as a powerful agency struggling to fulfill its mandate to facilitate transport and commerce, Darton sees the undiluted evil of unaccountable government officials in pursuit of ignoble ends. The same events are given diametrically opposed interpretations, and a few facts appear to be in dispute. Gillespie examines the tower's planning and construction in far more depth, but both he and Darton take the same superficial approach as Tom Wolfe in From Bauhaus to Our House. For now, architecture librarians will remain better served by Anthony Robin's The World Trade Center (1987). Large urban planning collections, however, may want to add both Twin Towers and Divided We Stand as a lesson in contrasting interpretation.--David Solt‚sz, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

To many, New York City's World Trade Towers would constitute an unlikely topic for a book, one likely to engulf the reader in a data equivalent to the two million gallons of sewage emitted daily from the nether reaches of the grossly proportioned twin shafts. But Darton (writing, New York Univ.), moving with consummate skill and grace among the disciplines of history, economics, journalism, and social criticism, has written a brilliant, deeply felt, and highly readable account of the individuals, events, and forces that brought the World Trade Towers into being and nearly toppled them. Darton brings an uncanny vividness to the experience of the building itself, to the plight of the hundreds of small merchants displaced by the project, to a critical assessment of the career of the architect, Minoru Yamasaki, to the union leaders, and to the power plays of the politicians, bankers, and real estate brokers who stood to benefit from the project. It is a testament to his writing that a building so formally disengaged from everything around it could become the subject of a book that informs us so richly about the city. General readers; upper-division undergraduates; faculty; professionals. ; SUNY at Buffalo

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Part I
1 Fair Warningsp. 2
2 Maneuvers Toward a City of Towersp. 18
3 Port Authority Rulesp. 38
4 Billion-Dollar Babyp. 60
Part II
5 The Coming Thingp. 88
6 The Thing Itselfp. 112
7 Being Therep. 144
8 Ripple Effectsp. 164
The Space Betweenp. 188
Selected Bibliographyp. 225
Indexp. 233