Seeing the Better City: How to Explore, Observe, and Improve Urban Space

Island Press
Free sample

In order to understand and improve cities today, personal observation remains as important as ever. While big data, digital mapping, and simulated cityscapes are valuable tools for understanding urban space, using them without on-the-ground, human impressions risks creating places that do not reflect authentic local context. Seeing the Better City brings our attention back to the real world right in front of us, focusing it once more on the sights, sounds, and experiences of place in order to craft policies, plans, and regulations to shape better urban environments.

Through clear prose and vibrant photographs, Charles Wolfe shows those who experience cities how they might catalog the influences of urban form, neighborhood dynamics, public transportation, and myriad other basic city elements that impact their daily lives. He then shares insights into how they can use those observations to contribute to better planning and design decisions. Wolfe calls this the "urban diary” approach, and highlights how the perspective of the observer is key to understanding the dynamics of urban space. He concludes by offering contemporary examples and guidance on how to use carefully recorded and organized observations as a tool to create change in urban planning conversations and practice.

From city-dwellers to elected officials involved in local planning and design issues, this book is an invaluable tool for constructive, creative discourse about improving urban space.
Read more

About the author

Charles R. Wolfe provides a unique perspective about cities as both a long time writer about urbanism worldwide and as an attorney in Seattle, where he focuses on land use and environmental law. He is also an Affiliate Associate Professor in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington, where he teaches land-use law at the graduate level. Wolfe is an avid traveler, photographer, and writer, and contributes regularly on urban developmtopics for several publications including CityLab, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, Grist.org, seattlepi.com, and Crosscut.com. He blogs at myurbanist.com.

Read more

Reviews

Loading...

Additional Information

Publisher
Island Press
Read more
Published on
Feb 2, 2017
Read more
Pages
248
Read more
ISBN
9781610917766
Read more
Features
Read more
Language
English
Read more
Genres
Architecture / Sustainability & Green Design
Architecture / Urban & Land Use Planning
Read more
Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
Read more
Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
Read more

Reading information

Smartphones and Tablets

Install the Google Play Books app for Android and iPad/iPhone. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are.

Laptops and Computers

You can read books purchased on Google Play using your computer's web browser.

eReaders and other devices

To read on e-ink devices like the Sony eReader or Barnes & Noble Nook, you'll need to download a file and transfer it to your device. Please follow the detailed Help center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders.
Charles R. Wolfe
This beautifully illustrated short e-book explores the idea that to create vibrant, sustainable urban areas for the long term, we must first understand what happens naturally when people congregate in cities—innate, unprompted interactions of urban dwellers with each other and their surrounding urban and physical environment. Wolfe elaborates on the perspective that the underlying rationales for urban policy, planning and regulation are best understood from a historical perspective and in a better understanding of the everyday uses of urban space. To make his case, Wolfe draws on his years of writing about urbanism as well as his professional experiences as a land use and environmental lawyer and offers compelling case study vignettes from everyday urban life.

Successful community, Wolfe argues, is among the first principles of what makes humans feel happy, and therefore city dwellers invariably celebrate environments where and when they can coexist safely, in a mutually supportive way. Wolfe believes such celebration is most interesting when it occurs spontaneously—seemingly without effort. He contends it is critical to first isolate these spontaneous and latent examples of successful urban land use, before applying any prescriptive government policies or initiatives. Wolfe provides something rare in contemporary urbanist writing—rich illustrations and examples from real life—both historical and current. His writing about the past and the future of urban form offers readers inspiration, historical context, and a better understanding of how a sustainable, inviting urban environment is created.
Jacque Fresco & Roxanne Meadows
FEW TECHNOLOGICAL ACHIEVEMENTS are as impressive as the ability to see our own planet from outer space. The beautiful sphere suspended against the black void of space makes plain the bond that the billions of us on Earth have in common.

This global consciousness inspires space travellers who then provide emotional and spiritual observations. Their views from outer space awaken them to a grand realization that all who share our planet make up a single community. They think this viewpoint will help unite the nations of the world in order to build a peaceful future for the present generation and the ones that follow.

Many poets, philosophers, and writers have criticized the artificial borders that separate people preoccupied with the notion of nationhood. Despite the visions and hopes of astronauts, poets, writers, and visionaries, the reality is that nations are continuously at war with one another, and poverty and hunger prevail in many places throughout the world, including the United States.

So far, no astronaut arriving back on Earth with this new social consciousness has pro- posed to transcend the world's limitations with a world where no national boundaries exist. Each remains loyal to his/her particular nation-state, and doesn’t venture beyond patriotism - "my country, right or wrong" – because doing so may risk their positions.

Most problems we face in the world today are of our own making. We must accept that the future depends upon us. Interventions by mythical or divine characters in white robes descending from the clouds, or by visitors from other worlds, are illusions that cannot solve the problems of our modern world. The future of the world is our responsibility and depends upon decisions we make today. We are our own salvation or damnation. The shape and solutions of the future depend totally on the collective effort of all people working together.


Jacque Fresco
INTRODUCTION

Although many of us feel we can prepare for our future by thinking, acting, and learning using present methods and values, nothing is farther from the truth – especially in today’s rapidly changing world. A newborn child enters a world not of his or her own making. Each succeeding generation inherits the values, accomplishments, hopes, successes, and failings of previous generations. And they inherit the results of the decisions made by those generations.


For the hundreds of thousands of years of human existence when technologies were simple or non-existent, this may have had little impact on human life and the earth that sustains it. Each generation of hunters and gatherers, then plowmen and pioneers, passed on tools to the next generation to help them survive. Change from one generation to the next was slow and hardly noticeable. In those days there was little understanding of science and how things worked, and explanations were not scientific.


This is no longer the case in today’s high-tech world where a change that affects millions may happen in a matter of seconds. A child born today inherits a world vastly different from that of its parent’s generation, let alone that from centuries ago. Previous generations left a legacy of, exploitation, occupation, and irrelevant values that present great challenges, but also opportunities to the people of today.


The application of scientific principles, for better or worse, accounts for every single advance that has improved people’s lives. Important documents and proclamations have been issued granting rights and privileges to members of societies, but at the heart of human progress – or destruction – is the rock-solid foundation of science.


For generations past it was impossible to direct the future much beyond the present moment, and forecasts of the future were based on non- scientific methods. Prophets and sages presented visions of the future based on dreams, hallucinations, religious fervor, divination of animal parts, crystal balls, etc. Some may even have been accurate, but this was more because of luck than because of any direct channel to the supernatural.

Charles R. Wolfe
This beautifully illustrated short e-book explores the idea that to create vibrant, sustainable urban areas for the long term, we must first understand what happens naturally when people congregate in cities—innate, unprompted interactions of urban dwellers with each other and their surrounding urban and physical environment. Wolfe elaborates on the perspective that the underlying rationales for urban policy, planning and regulation are best understood from a historical perspective and in a better understanding of the everyday uses of urban space. To make his case, Wolfe draws on his years of writing about urbanism as well as his professional experiences as a land use and environmental lawyer and offers compelling case study vignettes from everyday urban life.

Successful community, Wolfe argues, is among the first principles of what makes humans feel happy, and therefore city dwellers invariably celebrate environments where and when they can coexist safely, in a mutually supportive way. Wolfe believes such celebration is most interesting when it occurs spontaneously—seemingly without effort. He contends it is critical to first isolate these spontaneous and latent examples of successful urban land use, before applying any prescriptive government policies or initiatives. Wolfe provides something rare in contemporary urbanist writing—rich illustrations and examples from real life—both historical and current. His writing about the past and the future of urban form offers readers inspiration, historical context, and a better understanding of how a sustainable, inviting urban environment is created.
©2017 GoogleSite Terms of ServicePrivacyDevelopersArtistsAbout Google
By purchasing this item, you are transacting with Google Payments and agreeing to the Google Payments Terms of Service and Privacy Notice.