American Urbanist: How William H. Whyte’s Unconventional Wisdom Reshaped Public Life

Richard K. Rein. Island, $35 (328p) ISBN 978-1-64283-170-2
Journalist Rein debuts with an intriguing intellectual biography of journalist and urbanist William “Holly” Whyte (1917–1999). Though Whyte is best known today for his 1956 bestseller, The Organization Man, a study of life within corporations, Rein uncovers his contributions to urban landscapes such as New York City’s Bryant Park, which he helped redesign in 1988, as well as his influence on protégés including Jane Jacobs and Paco Underhill. Growing up in a small town near Philadelphia, Whyte gained a reputation as an unconventional thinker, according to Rein. After graduating from Princeton in 1939, Whyte worked as a Vicks VapoRub sales rep and served in the Marines during WWII. Following the war, he became a writer and editor at Fortune magazine, where his research for The Organization Man involved close observation of the suburban communities where his subjects lived, which sparked a lifelong passion for understanding the factors, including walkability, sidewalk width, and access to open spaces, that contribute to the quality of urban life. His pioneering thinking, grounded in data garnered from field observations, was implemented by the New York City Planning Commission and has inspired worldwide efforts to maximize the joys of city living. Rein foregrounds Whyte’s own writing and analyses, which were remarkably prescient. The result is a welcome tribute to a visionary thinker. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 11/30/2021
Release date: 01/01/2022
Genre: Nonfiction
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