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Learning to 'Place-Decode' the Elements of Urbanism

Chuck Wolfe champions the role of France's attachment to place as a laboratory for decoding the essential elements of urbanism.
September 5, 2014, 9am PDT | Charles R. Wolfe | @crwolfelaw
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CityDecoding_ChuckWolfe1In the first in an illustrated series, Wolfe explores the recent premise of the New York Times' Roger Cohen:  In France, perception of classic physical space is evolving as the role of cyberspace expands. 

Cohen wrote in early July about place-based aspects of the French struggle with modernity, noting:

[N]owhere else is the particularity of place and the singularity of a person's attachment to it more important.

Writing from France periodically through November, Wolfe follows Cohen's comment with a call for special attention to "place-decoding", using French cities and towns as a laboratory.  Wolfe notes:

There is nowhere better, in my opinion, to see the old world basis for the role of urban places, and how they define who we are in the urban context...  [I]n the narrow streets and pass-through places of old world urban cores, latent answers to urban riddles await our quizzical view. These answers are worthy of histories, sensational fiction and last, but not least, the inquiry of urbanists.

Consider a Dan Brown approach to the study of cities he suggests, "something we could easily call 'place-decoding'."

Place-decoding, Wolfe argues, is the necessary prerequisite to placemaking going forward. He presents five photographs, accompanied by five topical questions, and concludes:

[T]hese are the riddles of the old world worth illustrating and asking again, in places where their inspiration remains on eternal display -- begging for rediscovery, decoding and translation to modern life.

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Published on Thursday, September 4, 2014 in The Huffington Post
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