cover image Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities

Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities

Witold Rybczynski, Scribner, $24 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4165-6125-5

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. (Nov.)