Michelle Provoost

is an architectural historian living and working in Rotterdam.

Articles

New towns on the Cold War frontier

How modern urban planning was exported as an instrument in the battle for the developing world

Constantinos Doxiadis, the architect who during the 1950s and 1960s built new towns throughout the Middle East and Africa, was a leading figure in US Cold War policy. While hoping to inculcate democratic and free-market values in the developing world, the New Towns failed to take into account indigenous traditions. Today, Doxiadis’s urban neighbourhoods have become something quite different to what he anticipated: Sadr city, Baghdad’s giant slum, for example, where typhoid and hepatitis epidemics rage and which is now the backdrop for a new type of urban warfare. The most that can be said for Doxiadis’s New Towns, says Michelle Provoost, was that they had in mind an ideal – precisely what the US programme to restore democracy in contemporary Iraq lacks.

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