Reading Cities Cover to Cover, and Why

Chuck Wolfe underscores the importance of a holistic view of urban places, referencing themes of common experience, aesthetics, feelings of happiness, safety, or security—a basic narrative of the city that often goes beyond first impressions.

Read Time: 1 minute

February 11, 2015, 8:00 AM PST

By Charles R. Wolfe @crwolfelaw


Dublin Skyline

Shutterstock / Shutterstock

Using the foil of a dramatic urban view that has remained unchanged in an evolving Seattle neighborhood, Wolfe suggests that the goals of good urbanism are often buried by jargon of the day.  

Open a book, read only, say, page 77, and the prose may please the mind or heart, but the richness of the story may suffer. Why? Because the plot is still unclear.

Reading the city is no different, he notes, with reference to his linked slideshow of international, human-scale urban imagery, and to a colorful photograph of the view referenced above. He suggests that taking pause, and recalling context and any background story, is the first step towards achieving community, neighborhood, and a better place.

"Urban challenges often first appear as conflicts of ideology, habit or style, without nuance. Yet the irony of underlying commonality is great, and should not be lost," he notes, citing examples from Jerusalem, Seattle, and the recent writing of Charles Montgomery and Jaime Lerner.

Wolfe suggests greater emphasis on common foundations and common ground in discussions of urban affairs, urging "that any professional embracing urban policy, practice, and as a precursor to innovation...read... the entire book, the one that tells the important back stories, and sets a universal, human tone."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 in The Huffington Post

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