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A History of Future Cities Hardcover – February 25, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (February 25, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393078124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393078121
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #878,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2013: When East meets West, the results can be surprising. Nowhere is this better displayed than in journalist Daniel Brook's A History of Future Cities, a book about Mumbai, Dubai, St. Petersburg, and Shanghai--four cities perched at the delta between Western and Eastern civilization. In these metropolises, imperialist and nationalist influences have layered, mixed, and aggregated into unusual new forms. Identity crises abound in St. Petersburg, built by Peter the Great, who fell in love with Amsterdam and tried to re-create it on a frozen Russian swamp; in Shanghai, propelled into the modern world as a foreign-dominated, no-passport-needed, economic and moral free zone. Brook explores cross-cultural politics, architecture, and ambitions reflected in four places that not only shaped history but may also indicate the future of many crossroad cities. --Amazon Editors

From Booklist

As different as the origins of St. Petersburg, Mumbai, Shanghai, and Dubai are, they share a characteristic as historical outposts of Western trade, architecture, and culture. Author Brook explores the ramifications in chronicles of each city, prominent among which are tensions between the modernizing influences of these cities and the traditional customs of the countries in which they are situated. If these four cities have looked outward as nodes of international commerce, at their backs in their hinterlands were always social forces and political movements with the potential to throttle the capitalist festivities. Within general narratives of when this happened—the Communist revolutions in Russia and China; socialist economics in India—Brook expresses a visual sense of each city’s major streets and landmark buildings, describing and interpreting them through their builders’ ambitions for the future, be it a grand train station in colonial Bombay or the world’s tallest building in Dubai. Priming readers with the histories of these cities, including their politics and cosmopolitan demographics, Brook enthusiastically engages at the intersection of urban affairs and globalization. --Gilbert Taylor

Customer Reviews

Dubai is just the most recent example of a future city.
Sam Hasler
Provided you have an interest in the development of these cities, you'll find one of the more compelling urban histories out there.
Christian Lander
It is well researched and I enjoyed reading his style of writing.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book follows the inception and the progress of four cities; St. Petersburg ,Shanghai, Bombay, and Dubai. They share two important characteristics: they were planned as cities of the future and they are Eastern cities oriented toward the West. He points out that Orient is a noun meaning east and a verb meaning to place oneself in space. All four of these cities were founded on a vision. Peter the Great converted a swampy backwater into his vision of Amsterdam, then the wealthiest city on the earth. Historians have often noted that the city appeared as if set there from the sky. Shanghai was the vision of foreign investors. After forcing China to open its gates to trade, they developed Shanghai as the modern foreign capital of import/export. Bombay was modeled on the British model of civilization and commerce. Dubai was the dream of a sheikh to build infrastructure and convert a desert into the center of the world.

The premise of the city of tomorrow is a fascinating one, and this book is a wealth of information. Brook has a scholarly style and the reading is dense but accessable. I am familiar with all four cities, but was interested and surprised by many of the observations. Brooks compares and contrasts the cities through the years of their growth and development. In Dubai's case, there are not so many years. He discusses how the architecture reflects the philosophy of each period and traces the trends of building in context of politics. In the final section, he examines the status of each city and the ways it has or has not lived to the dream of its inception.

Most cogent to me was reading how each of the cities had the same startling appearance to the world in their birth as Dubai presents now.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Peter M. Norman on March 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a matter of full disclosure, I'll admit that I'm a long-time friend of the author's, a fact that upon finishing this book fills me with both pride and a little bit of envy. It's a brilliant book, and for starters far more gracefully written and genuinely funny than a book of its intellectual ambition has a right to be. Dan is the anti-Thomas Friedman: he visits the "flattest", most globalized places on earth and emerges with (often hilarious) stories that illustrate both the uniqueness and the humanity of their inhabitants.

On to that intellectual ambition. As I see it, the book concerns two pressing questions.

First, when will we reach a point where "modernity" is no longer "Western" any more than agrarian culture is "Sumerian"? To some degree, the answer might lie elsewhere from the four cities the book considers: Tokyo and Seoul come to mind as cities that are both thoroughly modern and thoroughly non-Western (or at least that show the ability to assimilate Western influences on their own terms). But for much of the world, the legacies of colonialism and underdevelopment remain pressing realities. In describing the history of St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Dubai, the book gives a clear impression of how the Russian, Chinese, Indian, and Emirati inhabitants of their global cities struggled with the implications of aspiring to foreign, modern ideals and contending with the power of foreign, modern institutions.

Second, what does it mean for a city to be "organic" in an age where powerful agents, whether the Chinese Community Party, Dubai Inc., or the private developers of Mumbai, can finance and project manage ready-made districts constituting entire cultural milieus.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By edc on March 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For anyone interested in the urban development of Shanghai, Mumbai, St Petersburg, or Dubai, the respective chapters on these cities are well written, entertaining, and informative, providing keen insights into the urban design of these cities, and the relationship between urban planning and the socioeconomic systems in each. Unfortunately, the promised "future cities" never appear - and where one would expect some kind of thesis or proposal or urban design guidelines, there's nothing - the book just ends and the reader is left to draw his own conclusions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pierre Gauthier on June 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
In this very original book, the author draws convincing parallels between four cities that are far apart, both geographically and culturally: Saint Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai and Dubai.

The quantity and quality of research is remarkable, a wide range of enlightening details being provided. Though some may judge certain sentences to be intricately constructed, the work is well written and well organized. Each chapter deals with a phase of development in a single city. Chapters are placed chronologically so that the reader lively moves from one city to the next as he plunges ahead.

Apart from changing its odd title, the only improvement that could be made to this work is with regards to illustrations. As things are, black and white maps are provided at the beginning of the book locating the four cities and giving some level of detail for each and a few black and white photos are inserted here and there. So much more pertinent information could be conveyed with an abundance of well positioned colour photos and maps!

Still, this fascinating book provides a unique point of view on the history of the past three centuries and is warmly recommended to all interested in the evolution of cities.
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More About the Author

Daniel Brook is the author of The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America (Times Books/​Henry Holt, 2007) and a journalist whose work has appeared in publications including Harper's, The Nation, Foreign Policy, and Slate. Brook was born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island, and educated at Yale. He lives in New Orleans.

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A History of Future Cities
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