What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life
Email this review


A creative city planner takes inspiration from the ancients’ sense of urban integrity to propound a holistic approach to crafting the city space.

Rose, founder of Jonathan Rose Companies and other organizations that focus on environmental, social, and economic solutions to urban issues, delineates a rather grandiose, idealistic vision for cities that is already coming to pass in some places. Modeled on J.S. Bach’s work The Well-Tempered Clavier, written in the mid-18th century, Rose’s work elucidates “a vast integration that demonstrates both the perfection of the whole and the role of the individual within it.” In terms of cities, Rose chisels Bach’s rather lofty “qualities” of urban temperament down to five and treats each in order. First, “coherence” means a framework in which to harmonize the city’s various programs, departments, and aspirations for growth—what the first Mesopotamian proto-city, Eridu, called meh, “gods’ gift to humans…the key to organizing society.” Next, “circularity” includes the movement of energy, water, and food within a city in a manner that mirrors nature’s own efficient system; a good example is the isolated, utterly self-sustaining Tibetan village of Shey. The next key quality, “resilience,” represents a city’s capacity to deal with stress and volatility—i.e., challenges of flooding, biodiversity, and green urbanism. “Community” involves the creation of conditions ripe for connectivity and culture for the happiness of all residents. Finally, “compassion,” or relieving the suffering of all resident beings, is vital for a healthy city. Rose takes great pains to tidily organize his thoughtful, textbooklike work, using examples both ancient and contemporary, from the evolution of the Chinese city and the brilliant Mayan cities to PlaNYC, the strategic planning of New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who used sophisticated data to the city’s advantage.

A comprehensive primer for how to contemplate urban spaces as they evolve for the future.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-06-223472-8
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Harper Wave/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2016


NonfictionSMART CITIES by Anthony Townsend
by Anthony Townsend
NonfictionTHE LAST DAY by Nicholas Shrady
by Nicholas Shrady
NonfictionA PARADISE BUILT IN HELL by Rebecca Solnit
by Rebecca Solnit
NonfictionCITIES ARE GOOD FOR YOU by Leo Hollis
by Leo Hollis