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City Life Paperback – October 10, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The book focuses mostly upon the development of cities in the United States and Canada. European cities are occasionally mentioned and discussed, but only in how they compare to their North American cousins. It's a history of cities, which combines modern-day thoughts on their development as well as some historical comments from what the people of the time thought of how their cities were emerging. Rybczynski also manages to touch on the roles of commercialism, art, and the unique qualities of North America that have helped to define our cities. Cities did not spring fully-formed, nor were they all laid out at the same time, and the author takes time to explore how different approaches to city planning created vastly differing results. He compares the many different approaches, from the organized and structured to the evolving and improvised.
The absolute biggest flaw with this text is that it is indeed just a text. Outside of the cover (featuring a sketching of a 19th Century street-scene and a poignant pre-9/11 photograph of the New York City skyline), there are no illustrations. No pictures, no diagrams, no maps, no charts, no blueprints, no photos -- nothing.Read more ›
I've read two other books by Mr. Rybczyncki, "Looking Around" and "The Look of Architecture". Both were fine reads, written and littered with pleasant insight. The same can be said of "City Life".
Rybczyncki obviously knows what he's talking about. And I think that's ultimately his problem. He sticks to what he knows. The book is clean, scrubbed of the messiness that makes cities so interesting. There aren't even any diagrams or illustrations. Instead he briskly walks you through the history of the American city in 200 pages. One of the reviewers here said he read this book for a high school history class. That seems about right. Facts and trends are revealed, but only one idea surfaces. In some ways this primacy of focus must be commended. The information is conveyed clearly and concisely. Rybczynski runs no risk of being called out on a theory that might prove wrong. The closet he treads to controversy is admitting a fondness for the mall.
Outlandish theories need not be the goal. But there the book offer so little to disagree with you almost feel like you didn't learn anything. It seems Rybczyncki with his gentile sensibility, has no wish to offend.
Portland's all clean lines, small blocks and mixed usage. The perfect city. Walkable and drivable.Read more ›
In just over 200 pages Rybczynski glides through the history of North American urbanization, from Anasazi cliff towns to suburban Levittown. In the process, he examines the failures of urban renewal, the surprising virtues of shopping malls and the enduring livability of "garden suburbs" such as Lake Forest, Illinois and Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania. Throughout, he is insightful and refreshingly open-minded, never resorting to the simple-minded cities good/suburbs bad dichotomy that characterizes much writing about urbanism today. While conscientious readers may go away with plenty of ideas on how to improve their own streets, towns and cities, Rybczynski's task is to describe, rather than proscribe.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As usual, Witold's writing style is part of the value of this book. His insightful views on urban life and structure are invaluable.Published 20 months ago by John G. Lynch
His name is pronounced rib-chin-ski, and that is (sadly) about all I remember from my class that we used this book in.Published on December 8, 2013 by Hassan
Rybczynski has compiled an excellent commentary on urban America and why it looks and functions the way it does. It is required reading for my graduate students. Read morePublished on June 20, 2007 by Kelly E. Templin
Anyone who's ever given half a thought to the influences which shaped American cities could have written this book. Read morePublished on September 5, 2000 by John Mccloskey
I read this book in a high school history class and it was fascinating, a topic that I don't think about but was totally interested by. Read morePublished on April 20, 2000 by Benjamin Bair
How does one write a book on city planning and not include a single illustation?Published on May 25, 1999
I read this book as I was considering where to buy a house in the DC Metro area. It was without a doubt the most helpful thing in making a wise choice since there were conflicting... Read morePublished on January 10, 1999