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Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities Paperback – September 2, 2011

4.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (September 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416561269
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416561262
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #556,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book. My niece is in landscape architecture and her thesis is going to be about turning a city into an Olympic games site and the aftermath and how to beautify the city afterwards all while doing everything environmentally responsible. Great book for her to reference.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Overall a worthwhile read. There's a lot of history packed into just 200 pages; some of it is fascinating while other parts were a little dry. The author is truly knowledgeable about cities, however, and I enjoy that he provides his perspective in a seemingly non-ideological way. I felt like this book is a wonderful 'appetizer', but I ended up getting Edward Glaeser's Triumph of Cities after I finished in order to get a more comprehensive treatment of the subject. So maybe if you're just looking for a fly-by of the ideas that have affected how American cities look and operate, this is perfect.
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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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