Date of Award
Susan Schmidt Horning
After World War II, millions of American servicemen returned home, anxious to put the war behind them, settle down, and begin a family. This resulted in an unprecedented spike in demand for housing, intensified by the low-interest loans granted by the G.I. Bill. Combined with an aggressive advertising campaign, longer term mortgages and an attractive and novel building plan made Levittown, PA an immediate success. Concurrently, geographical sectors of the United States witnessed an historical change in the manner in which homes were designed and constructed. Innovations such as mass production, the efficiency system, and the assembly line were expansively applied to the housing sector. This project traces the development and influence of modern suburbia in Lower Bucks County, PA with a particular focus on Levittown, followed by similar nearby developments that were patterned after it, in the years between 1947 and 1980. Many other American communities followed these design and engineering models, constructed with a modernized infrastructure predicated on the use of the automobile. These developments are evaluated in their intersection with design theory, community concepts, national identity, Cold War ideology, advertising, gender as well as class and race, and the criticisms aimed at them. The history of design and corresponding philosophy and applications are analyzed and applied extensively. The methodology employed integrates various disciplines to illustrate the expansiveness of design theory. An examination of advertising, personal walkability studies, tax records, the Bucks County archives, periodicals like House Beautiful, and various secondary and primary sources are pieced together to form a unique argument on the effects of postwar suburban design and the importance of this design on community, outlooks, and aspirations. The ramifications of this should cause us to reevaluate our built environment and consider the implications of how we engineer the spaces we exist in from roads to schools to shopping centers to the home. Design matters.
Palladino, Christopher J., "MODELS FOR LIVING: CRITIQUES OF MIDCENTURY SUBURBAN DESIGN, WITH A VIEW FROM LOWER BUCKS COUNTY, PA" (2022). Theses and Dissertations. 339.