THE WASHINGTON METRO AND THE RISE AND FALL OF AMERICAN URBANITY

This writing is divided into three parts, with three interlocking goals. First, it puts the Metro project in the historical context of the evolving, shifting, and often difficult understandings of American urbanism. In particular, it focuses on how transportation technologies have both shaped the urban environment and how they have enabled or inhibited certain cultural visions.

Second, it performs a discursive analysis on the specific history of the Metro, initially as a savior of monumentality and of Central Place Theory, but then, through shifting contestations, becoming something more. These contestations mirror larger American urban trends, and were a part of the rise of movements to understand, advocate for, and ultimately to create meaningful and functional urban environments. Finally, it examines and critiques some of the specific outcomes of this 50-year infrastructure project, partly to highlight as examples the outcomes of some of the trends mentioned, but also to examine and help to begin to define and analyze evolving conceptions of American urbanity. It does so through a syncretic application of three research methodologies. First is a historical analysis of primary and secondary source material, seeking out trends and pulling out meaning. Second is an analysis of the historical record through the lenses of various theoretical perspectives, not merely to put theory to the test, but to track its development, its uptake, and its shifting role in public debate.

Finally, it utilizes my own personal site visits and accompanying photography to both illustrate and analyze these concepts.

By Blair Lorenzo