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'Thank god for Richard Sennett ... essential reading for all students of the city' Anna Minton, Prospect
'Constantly stimulating ideas from a veteran of urban thinking' Jonathan Meades, Guardian
In Building and Dwelling, Richard Sennett distils a lifetime's thinking and practical experience to explore the relationship between the good built environment and the good life. He argues for, and describes in rich detail, the idea of an open city, one in which people learn to manage complexity. He shows how the design of cities can enrich or diminish the everyday experience of those who dwell in them.
The book ranges widely - from London, Paris and Barcelona to Shanghai, Mumbai and Medellin in Colombia - and draws on classic thinkers such as Tocqueville, Heidegger, Max Weber, and Walter Benjamin. It also draws on Sennett's many decades as a practical planner himself, testing what works, what doesn't, and why. He shows what works ethically is often the most practical solution for cities' problems. This is a humane and thrilling book, which allows us to think freshly about how we live in cities.
'Sennett is my kind of urbanist. He sees the modern city. He reads its secrets as he walks down the street, kicking over the detritus of the past ... There is no alternative to the planner, but please a planner who has read Sennett's book' Simon Jenkins, Sunday Times
The latest study from sociology professor Sennett (The Craftsman) focuses on the challenges of urban living throughout history with mixed results. Sennett begins by invoking the dichotomy between the city as built form (ville) and the city as lived experience (cit ), before segueing to his central question: how should urban planners respond to the fundamental disjuncture between the built environment and the complex, messy social realities that spill over its manicured boundaries? Sennett explores the ways in which thinkers ranging from Ildefons Cerd and Immanuel Kant to Jane Jacobs and Lewis Mumford sought to find a balance between an idealized provincial community and an indifferent cosmopolitan metropolis, weaving in insights from his own career as an urban planner, particularly pertaining to the concept of ethical urbanism. The book provides a lucid history of the major currents of urbanism, drawing different moments in planning history together around a series of problems that bear directly on contemporary debates. Later sections on building the ethical city are less successful, a ponderous mash-up of observations about "street-smarts" and philosophical musings that fail to illuminate the "open city" of the future. The book is a learned study of city life in the past but is less convincing about what the future might hold.