City Life: Urban Expectations in a New World

Overview

In City Life, Witold Rybczynski looks at what we want from cities, how they have evolved, and what accounts for their unique identities. In this vivid description of everything from the early colonial settlements to the advent of the skyscraper to the changes wrought by the automobile, the telephone, the airplane, and telecommuting, Rybczynski reveals how our urban spaces have been shaped by the landscapes and lifestyles of the New World.

The architect and critic who...

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Overview

In City Life, Witold Rybczynski looks at what we want from cities, how they have evolved, and what accounts for their unique identities. In this vivid description of everything from the early colonial settlements to the advent of the skyscraper to the changes wrought by the automobile, the telephone, the airplane, and telecommuting, Rybczynski reveals how our urban spaces have been shaped by the landscapes and lifestyles of the New World.

The architect and critic who changed the way we look at houses in Home now changes the way we look at the world outside our walls, in this elegant, provocative exploration of city life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rybczynski presents a historical survey of the development of American cities. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Architectural and urban historian Rybczynski (The Most Beautiful House in the World, LJ 4/1/89) has something to say about the shape of American cities, how they got that way, and how they inevitably contrast with their counterparts in Europe given the development of this country and our distincitve set of values. In succinct, accessible style, he moves from the flourishing of towns and cities in Europe to Tocqueville's assessment of the New World's urban efforts, to a sharp condemnation of urban planning in the last decades as a violation of America's values of spaciousness, choice, and self-sufficiency. At times the book seems a bit breezy, but Rybczynski can toss of terrific insights, e.g., conditions in the New World "gave American towns an independence of spirit, but also reinforced the general assumption that urban self-sufficiency was was the normal state of affairs"-which was certainly not true in the rest of the world and, he points out, has created some of the problems we have today. A fine book; recommended for most collections.-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Gilbert Taylor
Gazing at elegant Paris, a visitor from North America plaintively asked her companion, "Why aren't our cities like that?" Fortunately that companion was Rybczynski, an astute architectural historian whose knowledge and sparkling writing (e.g., "Home", 1986) ensure that his readers will no longer think of their American cities as apres-teardowns in progress. Rather, they might reimagine their cities' potential for beauty and sociability in light of this history of urban development, from the first planned towns, Philadelphia and Williamsburg, to the chaotic sprawls of Houston and Los Angeles. Deftly conveying what planners expected their new towns to become, Rybczynski commands a wealth of trenchant detail that reveals bucolic attitudes (e.g., the American penchant for naming streets after trees) or evolving architectural fashions, such as the faddish "urban renewal" movement of the 1950s. An early reform that achieved aesthetic success, the "City Beautiful" movement of the 1900s, exemplifies periodic civic self-examinations. Rybczynski's able perceptions illuminate all those developments, making this fascinating reading trip from de Tocqueville's observations to the present exurbs both exhilarating and rueful by turns.
From Barnes & Noble
A cultural historian looks at our cities, examining how they evolved, how they developed their unique individual identities, and what we can expect from them. Profiles Montreal, Chicago, New York, Savannah, others.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684813028
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 8/1/1995
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.95 (w) x 8.31 (h) x 0.94 (d)

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