Archives For Urbanism


Defying the System and Inspiring Hope
A Review of 

The New Pioneers: How Entrepreneurs Are Defying the System to Rebuild the Cities and Towns of America
J.P. Faber

Hardback: BenBella Books, 2017
Buy Now:  [  Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
Reviewed by Ryan Johnson

Stories have a profound impact on people. They have this inherent ability to communicate facts and reality in such a way that they leave a lasting impression. The best stories go beyond this by transforming us for the greater good. They have a way of altering preconceived ideas and strongly held beliefs in a way that other forms of communication cannot. They make us consider different viewpoints by taking us beyond our own life experiences and placing us into the lives of others. They can even create strong advocates for causes for which one otherwise had no interest. In The New Pioneers, Faber does just this by communicating stories of a movement fueled by new entrepreneurs that is taking aim at the things that restrict creativity and innovation, that is over-regulation and bureaucracy.
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The Wake Up CallThe Wake Up Call –
8 November 2012

Like the smell of strong coffee wafting down the hall, we offer a few book-related thoughts and stories to jumpstart your day…

*** Receive an email with The Wake Up Call (and daily ERB posts) in your inbox each morning! Sign up for The Daily Book Morsel

Today is World Urbanism Day.
Here are our reviews of a couple recent books that have impacted how we think about urbanism: 
[ Eric Jacobsen – The Space Between ]  [ Cities for People – Jan Gehl ]


And perhaps most notable, watch this video intro to Jane Jacobs’ book The Death and Life of Great American Cities.


Poem of the Day – “On Time” by John Milton.  Remembering Milton who died on this day in 1674


Book News:


Thanks be to God for this new day, may it be full of beauty and grace!

The Wake Up Call image via WikiMedia Commons

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“The Delight of Discovery

A Review of
Garden Guide: New York City.

By Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Garden Guide: New York City.
By Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry
Vinyl Flexicover : W.W. Norton, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

While the idea of a garden guide for New York City might seem unusual at first – this is, after all, the city that takes a beating for the size of the presumed ‘concrete jungle’ – the fact that just such a lengthy book exists is telling of an important aspect of urban places: namely, that gardens, parks, and green spaces are as integral to the fabric of healthy, diversified neighborhoods as anything; but also, as David Owen makes clear in Green Metropolis, the very density of NYC is one of the ‘greenest’ things it has going. New York’s gardens, scattered in-between buildings, along streets, on roofs, or in the occasional large park, become all the more valued because each plot of ground is precious, which is to say, each garden must do the most with the space given for it – none of this endless acreage of sprawling lawns and vacant lots such as are found in a city like Indianapolis, where I’m writing. Rather, creative uses are required for gardens in a city like New York, and so rooftops, the smallest vacant lots, and an old elevated train line all become valued green spaces alongside buildings, roadways, and the rest of city life.

A new revised edition of Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry’s Garden Guide: New York City documents over 80 gardens in New York’s five boroughs, and this number, it seems, is a relatively small selection, as the authors cite that there are over 400 community gardens alone in NYC. And within this guide, there is a full representation of many of these community gardens, along with city park-owned properties, private institutions with public green spaces, museums, churches, and municipal buildings, all with site-specific garden spaces in the midst of the city. Additionally, all of the gardens described in the book have visiting information, a ‘best season,’ and websites in most cases; through the bulk of the guide, these gardens are grouped geographically, but at the close, there are other classifications for gardens, such as ‘Best Vegetable Gardens,’ ‘Gardens With a View,’ or ‘Rooftop Gardens.’

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“Imagining Living Places
That Participate Within Their Contexts

A Review of
Natural Houses:
The Residential Architecture of Andersson-Wise
Rematerial: From Waste to Architecture.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Natural HousesNatural Houses:
The Residential Architecture
of Andersson-Wise

Hardback: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

From Waste to Architecture.

Alejandro Bahamón and Maria Camila Sanjinés
Paperback: W.W. Norton, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

REMATERIALThe city of Indianapolis – where I live – like many American cities has experienced huge amounts of suburban and exurban sprawl in the last decade. Within the last two years, it has been reported that for the first time in human history, more people live in cities than in rural places, although those numbers owe much to these sprawling, never-ending bedroom cities, so far removed from the city core, and hardly fair to be categorized as ‘urban’ at all. Many of us have watched the cycle of a farm stripped of all features, leveled, pipes buried, roads and curbs laid, and anonymous, windowless, porchless beige boxes spring up in record time. This widespread, wasteful suburbanization is completely oblivious to the place where it exists, what has been displaced for it to be there, how the place might inform how it is developed, and on and on. Fortunately, there is an alternative, and two new architecture books that both take place, site-specificity and local resources as their starting place and help us to imagine living places that acknowledge and participate within their context are Natural Houses: The Residential Architecture of Andersson-Wise and Rematerial: From Waste to Architecture.

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“Possibilities Deeply Seeded Within the World

A Review of
Bird Watching
by Paula McCartney


by Steven Holl.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Bird Watching.
Paula McCartney.
Hardback: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Urbanisms: Working With Doubt.
Steven Holl.
Hardback: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Bird Watching - Paula McCartneyI first saw Paula McCartney’s Bird Watching images as large prints, framed with their identification cards (including the birds’ name, location, date, size, coloring, and remarks) and I was hooked with the Spotted Wren, photographed on the Southern Oregon Coast, “golden crown, spotted back and wings” with “a field of daisies was the perfect backdrop for this little bird.” The image is saturated green, interspersed with the yellow and white daisy heads, and the matching yellow and white of the wren. It is as perfect an image as I might hope for. By the second photograph, something was awry, and looking back again at the wren, it was clear: these are model birds, wires holding them onto their perches, painted feathers, glued-on eyes. And having realized this artifice, the images are all the more enticing. First, there is the simple joy of recognition, which is a result of careful looking, and not afforded to anyone breezing past the surface of the photographs. Furthermore, though, there is a significant conceptual shift that complicates these images, asking questions about photography and looking at nature.

Urbanisms - Steven HollBird Watching has also existed as an edition of hand-made books by McCartney, and has just been published as a full monograph of these clever and beautiful prints, with identification texts and accompanying essays. Located in several locations in the US, McCartney’s birds exist in immaculate landscapes in which the birds complete the scene, and are often described in language questioning our own expectations of ‘nature,’ or the conventions we might expect nature to offer up to our looking (e.g., the sublime, the picturesque). To that end, two Barn Swallows “elegantly turn their heads toward the camera,” Vermillion Flycatchers are “enjoying the view by the lake,” and an Aqua Tanager “stopped and patiently posed for his portrait.”

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The full text of Gene Logsdon’s
agrarian parable “The Man Who Created
Foreword by Wendell Berry

 Gene Logsdon has recently released a web version of this classic, on his blog.

From the foreword by Wendell Berry:

“… This, then, is a story of two visions: one of disease, one of health. Or to put it another way, Gene Logsdon has had the generosity and the courage to allow a vision of Hell to call forth in himself its natural opposite. But can we properly dignify the story of Wally Spero by the term “vision,” or is it merely a reactionary fantasy? In my opinion, if you think this is merely a fantasy, you had better be careful. If you can look at the landscapes produced by strip mining without reacting toward some vision of the land restored, then you not only are looking at one of the versions of Hell; you are in it.

But can somebody really or “realistically” hope to accomplish what is accomplished in this story? Well, so far as I know, we don’t yet have an example of a whole new community sprouting from the spoil banks of a strip mine. But it is possible for one inspired man and an old bulldozer to make a creditable beginning, as Gene Logsdon knows, because he has seen it, as I have myself.   … “

Read the full fable here:

Gene Logsdon.
The Man Who Created
Ohio University Press. 2001.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $16] [ Amazon ]

“Learning Like a Christian”
The Other Journal Interviews
Stanley Hauerwas
about Christianity and Education

” HAUERWAS: …[T]he idea that you can separate economics from politics and create departments of economics and departments of political science that are separate from one another reinforces the presumption that economic relations are fundamentally relationships of exchange that don’t have anything to do with questions of the overarching and common good. Hence, this structure never leads you to the idea that human and social relations—whether they be of the economic or political sort—don’t have to function the way that they currently do. For example, the explanatory models for understanding relationships between nations and foreign policy in terms of balances of power write into those narratives the necessity of war so that you don’t even know how to begin to think of a world in which war is not a necessity. …”

Read the full review:

The State of the University:
Academic Knowledges and the Knowledge of God

Stanley Hauerwas.
Paperback. Blackwell Academic. 2007.
Buy now from: [ Amazon ]

A review of The Option of Urbanism
by Christopher Leinberger.

“In The Option of Urbanism, Christopher B. Leinberger aims to present a happy alternative to the usual apocalyptic accounts of urban sprawl and its consequences. This developer and professor of real estate at the University of Michigan suggests that walkable urbanism, which he defines as a type of settlement in which “you could satisfy most everyday needs … within walking distance from your home,” is absolutely attainable; we just have to choose it, like we chose “driveable sub-urbanism” in the ’50s and ’60s. He urges planners, architects, developers, and public officials to invest in this growing trend.

How did we find ourselves living in a world so averse to pedestrians? Leinberger locates the origins of postwar suburban development in media representations of the luxuriousness and ease of life outside the city. Spacious homes with large cars parked in the driveway, speeding to work on a super-highway, finally moving out of that inner-city walkup — these were the ideals that fueled the American Dream of the ’40s and ’50s. Yet, since the ’90s, American values have been undergoing a change. …”

Read the full review:

The Option of Urbanism:
Investing in a New American Dream.

Christopher Leinberger.

Paperback. Island Press. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $21 ] [ Amazon ]