Concrete and Clay

From Urban and Industrial Environments

Concrete and Clay

Reworking Nature in New York City

By Matthew Gandy

An interdisciplinary account of the environmental history and changing landscape of New York City.





An interdisciplinary account of the environmental history and changing landscape of New York City.

In this innovative account of the urbanization of nature in New York City, Matthew Gandy explores how the raw materials of nature have been reworked to produce a "metropolitan nature" distinct from the forms of nature experienced by early settlers. The book traces five broad developments: the expansion and redefinition of public space, the construction of landscaped highways, the creation of a modern water supply system, the radical environmental politics of the barrio in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the contemporary politics of the environmental justice movement. Drawing on political economy, environmental studies, social theory, cultural theory, and architecture, Gandy shows how New York's environmental history is bound up not only with the upstate landscapes that stretch beyond the city's political boundaries but also with more distant places that reflect the nation's colonial and imperial legacies. Using the shifting meaning of nature under urbanization as a framework, he looks at how modern nature has been produced through interrelated transformations ranging from new water technologies to changing fashions in landscape design. Throughout, he considers the economic and ideological forces that underlie phenomena as diverse as the location of parks and the social stigma of dirty neighborhoods.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262072243 358 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 40 illus.


$35.95 T ISBN: 9780262572163 358 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 40 illus.


  • ...a fascinating overview of New York City's technological and social infrastructures.

    Journal of Architectural Education

  • Gandy has pieced together a fascinating environmental history of New York.

    Publishers Weekly

  • Concrete and Clay is a towering achievement and a wonderful addition to the literature on the urban environment.

    Ari Kelman

    American Studies

  • Gandy deftly and provocatively connects issue of health, politics, economics, and urbanology in a compulsively readable and illuminating cultural analysis.

    Publishers Weekly


  • This remarkable book renders more visible the complex process of socio-environmental transformation that gives form and substance to the city. It is a great read—insightful and well-researched, yet accessible.

    Erik Swyngedouw

    St. Peter's College and School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University

  • Gandy does an excellent job of guiding the reader through the thicket of New York's societal relationships with nature. The study defies common conventions of urban historical narrative by allowing the reader to access New York's nature from a variety of perspectives: capital, technology, modernization, landscape, liberation politics, and environmental justice. Concrete and Clay is a major achievement in the field of urban ecology.

    Roger Keil

    Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

  • This is a masterful book: sweeping in its coverage of urban environmental issues, provocative in its critique of contemporary environmentalism, and economical in its execution. I can think of no other work that so effectively manages to sustain an analysis of the urban environment across such broad shifts in urban capitalism. By relentlessly bringing us back to the underlying patterns of capital accumulation and political power in cities, Gandy offers a powerful corrective to models of sustainability that invoke an organic ideal of urban nature.

    Andrew Hurley

    Department of History, University of Missouri, St. Louis

  • This is a wonderful book—rich in detail and broad in analytic scope. Gandy uncovers the hidden intersections of nature, culture, and power on which the building of cities relies. He offers a dramatic new synthesis of what we know about New York City and the natural environment of water, waste, air, and parkland, framed by the continual struggle for democracy.

    Sharon Zukin

    author of The Cultures of Cities


  • Co-winner of the 2003 Spiro Kostof Award presented by the Society of Architectural Historians