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Posted December 14, 2000
'Seduction of Place,' Joseph Rykwert's new book, is perhaps his most radical. In it he elaborates on themes that have preoccupied him for more than 4 decades, yet never has he so explicitly aired his conviction that the cities we desire can become the cities we have, but only if individuals take hold of their potential to effect meaningful reforms. Rykwert's conviction is especially refreshing at a time when the built environment--our collective home after all--appears to be the result of economic and political forces that are impersonal and abstract and seem to be beyond our influence. This stance makes this book a challenge to those planners, architects, urban designers and other citizens who can see no route between revolution and acquiescence other than resignation. Rykwert counters such inertia as well as rationalist and quantitative approaches to the city with a conviction that the city is a setting of and for human will, dreams, and desire. As such, making and re-making cities, he argues, requires a set of rational principles that are flexible enough to accomodate elaboration, chance, and improvisation, which Rykwert believes can become the special features of contemporary cities. Rykwert's consideration of the city investigates the full-range of attempts to make cities places of and for people; a thread that extends from the ancient city, to the revolutions of 1848 and even to the 1999 demonstrations in Seattle in opposition to the World Trade Organization. Thus, for all these reasons, and others as well, Rykwert's book is a must-read for all who love cities and perhaps especially for those who don't yet know why they ought to.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.