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Showing 1-1 of 1 reviews(2 star, Verified Purchases). See all 22 reviews
on June 22, 2006
The City In Mind is cast as an expansion on Jane Jacobs' ideas and on the New Urbanism movement. In fact Kunstler is an unreconstructed Classicist in antediluvian splendor, rather than a New Urbanist, and seems to be linked to the movement more by a (substantially aesthetic) enmity toward modern architecture (for this dinosaur gothic is modern) and urban planning, rather than by an interest in defanging the unfriendly and anti-humanistic elements of recent urban design.

For Kunstler, Classicism is light, and all else darkness. This has unfortunate implications for the reader as Kunstler appears incapable of throwing any light on non-Classical architecture, city construction or urban planning, with the possible exception of historic water and sewerage. Since Kunstler's Classicism is of a type driven by building codes mandating building height, style, decoration, materials etc., and is influenced more by the centrally planned city planning fantasies of the Renaissance than by either the architecture or planning of the Renaissance or by the architecture and planning of antiquity, he is unable to say much of anything even about Rome, and is instead forced to launch into an essay on Classicism itself.

Paris by contrast, held on a tight leash by the Classicist regulations Kunstler loves, comes in for much better treatment, and Kunstler's mix of history and commentary yields insights, although he fawns over Napoleon the Third and he fails to treat as significant the poor neighborhoods of Paris. The rest of the book however (Paris is the starting chapter), is opinionated, but completely untethered in it's criticism. Opinionated criticism, even exceedingly biased criticism, can be amusing to read if it is humorous, or even well written, but Kustler simply piles on scarcely related anecdotes against the (many) cities he does not like, along with swearing and other crude invective.

To sum up, this book presents an apologism for a fairly rigid classicism, and unswerving harsh and unbalanced criticim, or at best historical trivia for the rest.
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