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Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities Hardcover – November 9, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (November 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416561250
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416561255
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #660,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rybczynski (A Clearing in the Distance), professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, offers a glimpse of an urban future that might very well serve as a template for cities around the world. Just as the dense and green Israeli city Modi'in mixes old and new modes of urban planning, this book integrates history and prediction in its survey of the development of the American city. A brisk look back takes us from colonial town planning through the Garden City and City Beautiful initiatives of the early 20th century that defined and delivered the distinctive aesthetic character to such cities as New York and Chicago to the big box era. He also examines how contemporary urban designers and planners are revisiting and refreshing older urban ideas, bringing gardens to a blighted Brooklyn waterfront. Rybczynski's study is kept relevant by his focus on what the past can teach us about creating the "cities we want" and "cities we need." The prose is instructive and always engaging, and the author's enthusiasm for the future of cities and his enduring love of urban settings of all kinds is evident. He not only writes about what people want from their cities, he inspires the reader to imagine the possibilities.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

So much of modern American architecture, for good or ill, derives from twentieth-century movements dubbed “city beautiful” and “the garden city” as well as the tumultuousness of highly regarded architects, from Le Corbusier to Frank Lloyd Wright. Acclaimed architecture writer Rybczynski begins with a review of nineteenth- and twentieth-century movements that produced magnificent parks and grand classical structures that continue to dominate the downtown areas of many American cities. He examines the fierce debates among architects and planners searching to balance grand design and practical use, a debate fueled by Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) and Lewis Mumford’s contrasting views on urbanism. Rybczynski goes on to examine the trend toward arcades, malls, and big-box retail stores and to critique mixed-use development projects in a variety of cities in a never-ending search to find the right mix of aesthetics and practical, user-friendly spaces in an era of scarce resources and emerging environmental issues. An engaging look at changing perspectives on urban architecture and development. --Vanessa Bush

More About the Author

Witold Rybczynski has written about architecture and urbanism for The New York Times, Time, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed book Home and the award-winning A Clearing in the Distance. His latest book is The Biography of a Building. The recipient of the National Building Museum's 2007 Vincent Scully Prize, he lives with his wife in Philadelphia, where he is emeritus professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
Read his blog at http://www.witoldrybczynski.com.

Customer Reviews

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I just enjoy knowing stuff!
J. Felt
Planning is more like being engaged in the trenches than organizing the pieces on a game board.
G. Petri
Jane Jacobs was very critical of urban renewal.
LEON L CZIKOWSKY

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Richard S. Dixon Jr. on January 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is the fifth book of Witold Rybczynski's I have read and they just keep getting better. I admire the man for his calm discussions on so many aspects of architecture and cities (I find his book on Palladio: The Perfect House, most satisfying). For the professional architect or architectural historian, much of his discussions might seem basic stuff, but I find them instructive, clear and insightful. For anyone interested in the history of buildings in America, the idea of city life in Western Culture or even in the idea of what "home" means (forget Bill Bryson's book, At Home, Rybcynski's 1980s book on Home far surpasses that one), this is the author for you. His writing is consistently outstanding: clear, precise and tempered with the wisdom gained over many years of observing the subjects he discusses.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Petri on December 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book to be well organized and concise. As an architect that was in school during the city planning conversations of the 1960s, reading Makeshift Metropolis now has been a good review and an opportunity to reassess some of the notions that were prevalent then. Things have clearly evolved. Planning is more like being engaged in the trenches than organizing the pieces on a game board. Witold has done it again, bringing accessible understanding of a complicated issue to anyone who is interested in learning.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brad Meacham on March 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A superb, accessible overview of how current ideas in urban planning evolved. I love how the author puts Jane Jacobs in context and doesn't glorify any particular point of view. Most of the urban world is more like sprawling San Jose than Greenwich Village. The question this book helps answer is how do we shape cities so they're places where we want to live.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Felt on June 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Makes you appreciate the world we're all in and why it became what it is.

I've enjoyed this author's views and insights through several books over the past two decades.

A good, fairly quick and very insightful read.

And no I'm not involved with any of the related disciplines. I just enjoy knowing stuff!
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18 of 32 people found the following review helpful By LEON L CZIKOWSKY on December 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book presents the emergence of ideas regarding city planning and how they were refined over time. Present planning concepts favor more use of private sector entrepreneurism than many past planning theories considered.

Lewis Mumford is noted by the author as having ideas of regional planning that still resonate as he theorized the coming reality of sprawl spreading to exurbs. Jane Jacobs is noted as correctly foreseeing urban neighborhood vitality, but not with a steady middle class as Jacobs saw, but with wealthier results and more mobile newcomers. Frank Lloyd Wright correctly forecast urban decentralization. All together, these and others' planning ideas helped shape applicable theories today.

The U.S. has undergone relatively unplanned development, which is something Jacobs woud defend. Many of the primary factors determining how development occurs are decided by private developers rather than a few city planners. Planners strive to set and meet general goals of keeping cities livable and economically viable, safe from crime, diverse, and environmentally responsible. Economic decisions determine what people are willing to purchase. This had led to clashes between those desiring consistent urban design and those who want unique architectural designs. A major clash develops when the desires of what people wish to purchase may not be in the best interest for others, or the best for the environment.

Public parks are unique to North America. Most European cities, by contrast, have areas for visual viewing of gardens, flowers, and tended plants.

The public sector has often sought to work in conjunction with the private sector.
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