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City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age by P. D.…

City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age

by P. D. Smith

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This is kind of a coffee table book for urbanists depicting humanity’s greatest invention – the city! The book is split into bit size chapters about different aspects of the city from public parks to public transportation, from skyscrapers to the street, and from coffehouses to hotels. The books spans history and the globe seemingly try to create a city in the pages with snapshots of what makes up the city.

Favorite Passages:
"Look above the shopfronts and you begin to sense the history of the original buildings: exposed beams, time-roughened brickwork as red-raw as abraded skin, a plaque recording a creative life spent in a building, faded lettering advertising a long-defunct product. As you stand in in the high street, to the ubiquitous CCTV cameras you are just one more figure among the crowds of shoppers, someone with time to kill and money to spend. But as you begin to notice these traces of the past and read the urban text, the city starts to come alive. You become part of its history, more than a mere consumer of products. You are ready to begin a journey that can take you back to the roots of civilisation itself. It is time to start walking." - p. 171

"Creative cities are edgy places, where conservative, traditional forces collide with new, radical ideas in a shower of brilliant sparks. Great cities are complex, even disorderly, cosmopolitan communities. They are certainly not the easiest or safest places in which to live (housing conditions in Athens were far from ideal). Such cities are often overwhelming and intense environments. But this is often why they are such creative places. After all, it's the irritant of sand in an oyster that produces a pearl." - p. 253 ( )
  Othemts | Sep 3, 2012 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

This is being promoted as one of those "NPR-worthy" books that combines an academic's precision with the witty style of a commercial writer, all about the rise and development of urban centers over the last 20,000 or so years of human history. But alas, this slick, photo-heavy doorstop seems to have been designed more to look good on a coffeetable than to be a fascinating read; split into infuriatingly non-intuitive sections on the various random things that make up a typical city, the scattershot writing tends to read along the lines of, "Here's a chapter about bridges! And now here are some famous bridges! Here's a chapter about city walls! And now here are some famous city walls!" A book that could've been dense and fascinating like a Peter Ackroyd title, it's instead more along the lines of a forgettable basic-cable documentary, and despite looking great does not come recommended.

Out of 10: 6.7 ( )
  jasonpettus | Jul 31, 2012 |
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As a species, we never have been entirely satisfied with what nature gave us.
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Acclaimed author and independent scholar P. D. Smith explores what it was like to live in the first cities, how they have evolved, and why in the future, cities will play an even greater role in human life. "For the first time in the history of our planet, more than half the population-3.3 billion people-is now living in cities. City is the ultimate guidebook to our urban centers-the signature unit of human civilization. With erudite prose and carefully chosen illustrations, this unique work of metatourism explores what cities are and how they work. It covers history, customs and language, districts, transport, money, work, shops and markets, and tourist sites, creating a fantastically detailed portrait of the city through history and into the future. The urban explorer will revel in essays on downtowns, suburbs, shantytowns and favelas, graffiti, skylines, crime, the theater, street food, sport, eco-cities, and sacred sites, as well as mini essays on the Tower of Babel, flash mobs, ghettos, skateboarding, and SimCity, among many others." -- Publishers description… (more)

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