“Reader, if you seek his monument, look about you.”
With this quote, Thomas Campanella began his lecture on Thursday March 31, entitled “American Curves: The Urban Infrastructure of Clarke and Rapuano.” Describing the influence of Clarke and Rapuano – fellow Cornellians! – on the New Deal-era New York Metro area, Campanella discussed some of the most famous and innovative infrastructural additions: the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Peter Cooper Village, Stuyvesant Town, John F. Kennedy Airport, Shea Stadium, and the 1960 World Fairgrounds.
Both Clarke and Rapuano became right-hand men to the infamous Robert Moses, fabricating some of the most rapid upheavals in both physical infrastructure and urban life that New York has ever seen. Pioneering the Bronx River Parkway, Clark reinvented the genre of park motorways, a feat that Campanella describes as “highly engineered but is at the same time steeped in a Romantic past.” During the New Deal, Robert Moses hand-selected Clarke to work at the newly consolidated Parks Department of the five boroughs. Clarke, in turn, selected Rapuano, a gifted young landscape architect, to become his protégé. Both Clark and Rapuano, under the guidance of the contested ideals of Robert Moses, sought to reconcile tradition with modernity in the built environment. The monument to Clarke and Rapuano? You need only travel to New York City and look about you.