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The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces Paperback – March 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William H. Whyte was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1917. He joined the staff of Fortune in 1946, after graduating from Princeton University and serving in the Marine Corps. His book The Organization Man (1956), based on his articles about corporate culture and the suburban middle class, sold more than two million copies. Whyte then turned to the topics of sprawl and urban revitalization, and began a distinguished career as a sage of sane development and an advocate of cities. Along with numerous articles and studies, Whyte edited and co-wrote The Exploding Metropolis (1957), and authored Cluster Development (1964), The Last Landscape (1968), The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980), City: Rediscovering the Center (1988), and A Time of War: Remembering Guadalcanal, a Battle Without Maps (2000). He died in 1999.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 125 pages
  • Publisher: Project for Public Spaces Inc (March 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 097063241X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970632418
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.7 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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76 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Years ago I watched an episode of NOVA on PBS on William H. Whyte that explained the background and purpose and accomplishments of his project to study what makes urban spaces in cities work. I sat there riveted, as he methodically and carefully unveiled a vast range of urban phenomena of which I had hitherto been unaware.
The background to his study was this: following the enormous success of the plaza of Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building in New York in the mid-1950s, the city began to give tax breaks to new buildings that included plazas as part of their design. At the Seagram, people found in the heart of the city a marvelous space in which to congregate, to eat lunch, to sit and talk, and just enjoy a few minutes away from the office. While the idea of providing an incentive to new plaza development was unquestionably a great aim, a small problem developed: many of the new plazas were, unlike that of the Seagram, just dreadful. Cold, austere, people unfriendly, unwelcoming, many of them seemed designed more to keep people away than give them a place to enjoy themselves. This is where Whyte comes in. New York City was concerned with codifying what made a successful plaza, and giving tax breaks based more on the kind of plaza being built, rather than any kind of plaza at all. So, Whyte was charged with discovering precisely what goes into a successful urban space. The results of his exhaustive study are summed up in this brilliant monograph.
Whyte took cameras and began filming all kinds of urban spots in plazas and parks, and on regular sidewalks. As a result of this study, he was able first to analyze how urban spaces work, and secondly on the basis of this make, to make suggestions as to how to make successful spaces.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
Although the photographs are dated, the material is classic. This book is a must for anyone who is involved with design or review of open spaces. It shows how people use open space and identifies the common elements of successful spaces. While the elements all seem logical, the book shows how we often fly in the face of logic when using these spaces. The book focuses primarily on plazas and small parks in New York City, but includes a section for smaller cities with low rise buildings. The information can also be applied to parks in any size town. This book is a facinating case study in social ecology.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By N. Ricks on November 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
I love this book! I watched the film first and when I realized the film was next to impossible to get - I decided to get the book. Whytes easy to understand elements of what makes one space successful over another make sense and are simple to implement.
Urban Designers would benefit from more research like this - perhaps implemented in public transit?
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By K. Lincourt on July 14, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book for school... but I would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject matter. (Reading it, I was always wandering around talking to friends and family about it). The book is short, but there is a lot to think about. :)
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By Flavia on April 13, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I like a lot! It was a great experience, this book is excelent and explain details of the human comportament at urban spaces.. It's very important to students of architecture!
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The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
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