The Topography of Wellness: How Health and Disease Shaped the American Landscape

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University of Virginia Press, 2021 - City planning - 288 pages

The COVID-19 pandemic has re-ignited discussions of how architects, landscapes, and urban planners can shape the environment in response to disease. This challenge is both a timely topic and one with an illuminating history. In The Topography of Wellness, Sara Jensen Carr offers a chronological narrative of how six epidemics transformed the American urban landscape, reflecting changing views of the power of design, pathology of disease, and the epidemiology of the environment. From the infectious diseases of cholera and tuberculosis, to so-called "social diseases" of idleness and crime, to the more complicated origins of today's chronic diseases, each illness and its associated combat strategies has left its mark on our surroundings. While each solution succeeded in eliminating the disease on some level, sweeping environmental changes often came with significant social and physical consequences. Even more unexpectedly, some adaptations inadvertently incubated future epidemics. From the Industrial Revolution to present day, this book illuminates the constant evolution of our relationship to wellness and the environment by documenting the shifting grounds of illness and the urban landscape.

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About the author (2021)

Sara Jensen Carr is Assistant Professor of Architecture, Urbanism, and Landscape at Northeastern University.

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