Cultural Studies

Avignon Quintet (The Avignon Quintet, Book 1) by Lawrence Durrell

By Lawrence Durrell

An omnibus version of the 5 novels released by way of Durrell in a kaleidoscopic series among 1974 and 1985. The books are set as a rule in Avignon and the traditional country of Provence, even though major episodes within the quintet are set within the Egyptian wilderness, Venice, Paris, Vienna and Geneva.

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Fenceswere prohibited so that the overall impressionof houses set in a park would not be lost. The houseswere required to carry a minimum price tag (at the time, $3000, seemingly insignificant today, but roughly the annual income of a doctor in 1870). u The effect of these regulations was to createa ggg$lJ one-dimensional a" community. This was iather a new thing i" n had always been "streets of fashion," better neighborhoods,even whole towns that enjoyed greater prosperity than other towns. But never had the upper classso systematicallyseparateditself from the rest of society.

Chicago was also the birthplace of the modern method of wooden house building, the so-called "balloon frame. " Its development was spurred by the great fire of 1871, which destroyed much of the central city, including many thousands of wooden homes. After the blaze, a new city fire law Prohibited wooden buildings altogether, prompting a rush by speculative builders to put up blocks of cheap wooden houses for working people beyond the city limits. These were not houses-in-a-parki la Riverside, but tiny cottages perhaps eighteen by twenty-eight feet jammed on postage-stamplots.

What business required was offices, factories, housing for workers, and little else. Beyond advertising itself, businesshad a limited interest in decorating the public realm. Profits were for partners and stockholders. Where architectural adornment occurred, it was largely concernedwith the treatment of surfaces,not with the creation of public amenity. The use of the spaceitself, of the real estate, was a foregone conclusion: maximize the building lot, period. On the theory that politicians should not be subject to the blandishments of business interests, many states with big cities exiled their capitals to the provinces-New York to Albany, Illinois to Springfield, California to Sacramento-so the monumental architecture of government went up in cow towns where the great new capitol buildings looked bombastically out of proportion and served little civic purpose, while depriving the bigger cities of monuments and the large public gathering spacesthat go with them.

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