Invented Edens

From Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation series

Invented Edens

Techno-Cities of the Twentieth Century

By Robert H. Kargon and Arthur P. Molella

Tracing the design of “techno-cities” that blend the technological and the pastoral.





Tracing the design of “techno-cities” that blend the technological and the pastoral.

Industrialization created cities of Dickensian squalor that were crowded, smoky, dirty, and disease-ridden. By the beginning of the twentieth century, urban visionaries were looking for ways to improve both living and working conditions in industrial cities. In Invented Edens, Robert Kargon and Arthur Molella trace the arc of one form of urban design, which they term the techno-city: a planned city developed in conjunction with large industrial or technological enterprises, blending the technological and the pastoral, the mill town and the garden city. Techno-cities of the twentieth century range from factory towns in Mussolini's Italy to the Disney creation of Celebration, Florida.

Kargon and Molella show that the techno-city represents an experiment in integrating modern technology into the world of ideal life. Techno-cities mirror society's understanding of current technologies, and at the same time seek to regain the lost virtues of the edenic pre-industrial village. The idea of the techno-city transcended ideologies, crossed national borders, and spanned the entire twentieth century. Kargon and Molella map the concept through a series of exemplars. These include Norris, Tennessee, home to the Tennessee Valley Authority; Torviscosa, Italy, built by Italy's Fascist government to accommodate synthetic textile manufacturing (and featured in an early short by Michelangelo Antonioni); Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, planned by a team from MIT and Harvard; and, finally, Disney's Celebration—perhaps the ultimate techno-city, a fantasy city reflecting an era in which virtual experiences are rapidly replacing actual ones.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262113205 200 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 40 b&w illus.


$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262529594 200 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 40 b&w illus.


  • Invented Edens offers a profoundly original perspective on the interaction between technology and everyday life in the twentieth century. Using case-studies of planned urban environments, the book makes a path-breaking contribution to our understanding of modernity. Kargon and Molella present a galaxy of visionaries –– and show in fascinating detail how the interplay between the ideas and actions of these modern-minded critics of the machine-age contributed to the fashioning of cityscapes in which industrial technology and human values could exist in harmony, not in conflict.

    Robert Fox

    Department of History, Oxford University

  • With imagination and wide-ranging scholarship, Robert H. Kargon and Arthur P. Molella bring together Techno-Cities from New Deal America to fascist Italy to communist Russia. And behind this remarkable synthesis is a deep examination of the power and limitation of utopian planning to shape actual cities.

    Robert Fishman

    Emil Lorch Professor, Taubman College of Architecture and Planning, University of Michigan