I recently read two books on urban design that had me thinking all about city living and the flourishing of neighborhood-based community and wanted to share a few thoughts and blurbs on these books.
The first was by Alexandros Washburn, the urban design chief for New York City, who recently wrote The Nature of Urban Design: A New York Perspective on Resilience (Island Press, forthcoming in 2013). While the book is about urban design and development, it’s written in light of the recent memory of Hurricane Sandy’s impact on New York City. Washburn writes about how intentionality in both the process and product of urban design can cultivate an ethos of community identity and resilience in the wake of a disaster like Sandy.
Cities as a whole produce 80 percent of the world’s wealth. They are the crucibles of culture and advances in one city are transmitted and adopted in others with lightning speed.When cities improve, the world improves.
I care about my city, because I care about my neighborhood. I care about my neighborhood because I care about my family.
But the book is about more than how neighborhoods and community’s can survive times of crisis; it’s about how neighborhoods and community’s can thrive in the midst of everyday life, and how the macro-level of urban design can contribute to thriving city life by listening to the needs and stories of a neighborhood and responding to those needs and stories through good planning and design.
The second was by Charles R. Wolfe, a shorter e-book called Urbanism Without Effort (Island Press, 2013). Rather than focusing on the planned and orchestrated elements of the urban environment, Wolfe focuses on the celebratory, mutually supportive, and often spontaneous instances of city life at its best – what he calls “urbanism without effort.” His premise is that these effortless micro-instances of neighborhoods and community’s coming alive could and should be the basis for macro-level planning and design of our cities.
Urbanism without effort” is what happens naturally when people congregate in cities -based on the innnate interactions of urban dwellers that occur with one another and the surrounding urban and physical environments.
The best urbanism is that which is already there, waiting to be nurtured.
From alley movie nights to urban diaries to the creative resurgence of storefronts and city centers, Wolfe’s book catalogs “the best urbanism,” telling stories and sharing pictures of city living around the world. This is a quick read and a great ground-level look at how neighborhoods and communities can foster flourishing life in the city.
Both of these books were review copies received from the publisher. No positive review was required or requested; all thoughts above are my own!