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Diane E. Davis, (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1994), pp. xiii+391, $49.95, $24.95 pb.
The view on the front cover of Urban Leviathan says much about the contents therein. An aerial photograph shows the Torre Latinoamericana emerging from the haze of Mexico City's downtown. The photograph, taken in 1992, is titled `Mexico City's lone skyscraper'. This is the view of Mexico City which Diane Davis wishes to promote. As she says, the city is `lost in time' and possesses a downtown which is `uncannily reminiscent of prerevolutionary days at the turn of the century' (p. 295). Yet, were one to look in the opposite direction from the Torre Latinoamericana one would see a city which is entirely contrary to that portrayed by Davis. Avenida Reforma now possesses a number of twenty-plus storey buildings, the PEMEX tower looms large, and new developments in Polanco and Santa Fe are uncannily reminiscent of cities such as Dallas and Toronto. One's view of Mexico City depends upon one's perspective.
For Davis, the perspective would seem to be a largely negative one. Mexico City is described as `a monstrous inflated head, crushing the frail body that holds it up', `a planner's nightmare' (both p. 2), a `shambles' (p. 26), `unlivable, unmanageable, and fiscally parasitic' (p. 238). There are two problems with this approach. The first is subjective. For this reader, Mexico City contains some of the world's most imaginative examples of urban policy, its most striking architecture and novel forms of city government. Secondly, the …