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Good City Form Paperback – February 23, 1984

ISBN-13: 978-0262620468 ISBN-10: 0262620464 Edition: Reprint
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Editorial Reviews


This is a major work.... Lynch looks at connections between human values and the physical forms of cities, sets requirements for a normative theory of city form, reviews earlier physical images of what utopian communities might be, sees what is to be learned from hellish images, and helps us place city forms into one or another of three theoretic constructs: cosmic or ceremonial centers, the machine city, and the city as an organism. He tells us at some length how we might evaluate the 'goodness' of cities, speaks to the enduring issues of city size, growth, and conservation, and, having done all this, tells us about what his good city form might look like. The appendixes are a major part of the book, taking well over 100 pages.... This is a volume that in short order will be (or at least should be) standard, desired, provocative, influential reading for just about anyone concerned with why cities are the way they are and, more important, with achieving good places for people to live.

About the Author

Kevin Lynch (1918-1984) studied with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin and later obtained a Bachelor of City Planning degree from MIT. After a long and distinguished career on the faculty of the MIT School of Architecture and Urban Planning, he was named Professor Emeritus of City Planning.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 524 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; Reprint edition (February 23, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262620464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262620468
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #504,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Anselmo G. Canfora on July 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
In the world of urban design, obsessed with spectacular novelty and superficial aesthetics, this ambitious and profound work of Kevin Lynch is refreshing, yet enduring. He suggests a theory of urban design based on fundamental human values and examines how such values lead to the notion of a "good city form". His performance dimensions (e.g. access, fit, vitality) are broad enough to be interpreted and re-interpreted for specific contexts and sites. And the appendix, which briefly summarizes other theories of city form, is a tour-de-force by itself. A masterpiece which deserves greater attention and consideration, especially by those under the illusion that urban design is more or less architecture writ large!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By CityLover on June 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
As one who straddles the two worlds of practice and scholarship with great ease and comfort, I am struck by that rare work of craft which is at once profoundly thoughtful as well as clearly directed. Most serious scholars bend over backwards to embrace the myth of "objectivity", while most practitioners salivate over superficial "best practices". Kevin Lynch's masterpiece, Good City Form, avoids both traps while offering a template for judging the effectiveness of different types of urban form and providing a guide for successful urban design projects. His starting points, a masterful overview of models of urban form throughout history and a sensitive ode to humanist values, help establish a foundation for performance dimensions to measure "good city form": Vitality, Sense, Fit, Access, Control, Efficiency and Justice.

As an example, the discussion of what city design is (i.e. urban design) on pages 290-291 is masterful. Unlike many design theoreticians, Lynch uses simple and direct language rather than resort to pretension and manipulation of terminology. Beyond the deceptively simplistic tone is a multilayered understanding and more importantly a genuine love of the city. Lynch is a keen observer, a sensitive designer, and a profound thinker. Thus, his definition of what urban design should be discusses three aspects of cities: human activity, process and control, and of course, physical form. Indeed, as my own professional experience has shown to me, in order to be a truly impactful urban designer, one needs to pay close attention to all these aspects of what makes a city.

I would highly recommend this book to reflective practitioners, scholars interested in the practice of urban design, and students interested in shaping the future of our cities.
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