City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age

PD Smith

City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age

For the first time in the history of the planet, more than half the population - 3.3 billion people - are now living in cities. Two hundred years ago only 3 per cent of the world's population were urbanites, a figure that had remained fairly stable (give or take the occasional plague) for about 1000 years. By 2030, 60 per cent of us will be urban dwellers. City is the ultimate handbook for the archetypal city and contains main sections on 'History', 'Customs and Language', 'Districts', 'Transport', 'Money', 'Work', 'Tourist Sites', 'Shops and markets', 'Nightlife', etc., and mini-essays on anything and everything from Babel, Tenochtitlan and Ellis Island to Beijing, Mumbai and New York, and from boulevards, suburbs, shanty towns and favelas, to skylines, urban legends and the sacred. Drawing on a wide range of examples from cities across the world and throughout history, it explores the reasons why people first built cities and why urban populations are growing larger every year. City is illustrated throughout with a range of photographs, maps and other illustrations. 3.8 out of 5 based on 5 reviews
City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Society, Politics & Philosophy, Art, Architecture & Photography
Format Hardback
Pages 400
RRP
Date of Publication May 2012
ISBN 978-1408801918
Publisher Bloomsbury
 

For the first time in the history of the planet, more than half the population - 3.3 billion people - are now living in cities. Two hundred years ago only 3 per cent of the world's population were urbanites, a figure that had remained fairly stable (give or take the occasional plague) for about 1000 years. By 2030, 60 per cent of us will be urban dwellers. City is the ultimate handbook for the archetypal city and contains main sections on 'History', 'Customs and Language', 'Districts', 'Transport', 'Money', 'Work', 'Tourist Sites', 'Shops and markets', 'Nightlife', etc., and mini-essays on anything and everything from Babel, Tenochtitlan and Ellis Island to Beijing, Mumbai and New York, and from boulevards, suburbs, shanty towns and favelas, to skylines, urban legends and the sacred. Drawing on a wide range of examples from cities across the world and throughout history, it explores the reasons why people first built cities and why urban populations are growing larger every year. City is illustrated throughout with a range of photographs, maps and other illustrations.

Reviews

The Washington Post

Jonathan Yardley

Wholly accessible to the serious general reader … City is divided into sections that reveal cities in their various aspects, from their founding to their future, from streets to walls, from downtowns and financial districts to ghettos and slums, from banks to department stores, from theaters to sports arenas, from street food to up-market restaurants, from hotels to apartment buildings, from subways to skyscrapers. If there’s anything of consequence about cities that Smith fails to discuss or at least mention, I don’t know what it is.

08/06/2012

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The Economist

The Economist

… a sort of high-quality, unusually rigorous coffee-table book, designed to be dipped into rather than read from beginning to end … One obvious criticism is that the price of breadth is depth; many of Mr Smith’s essays raise as many questions as they answer. Although that can indeed be frustrating, this is probably the only way to treat so grand a vast topic ... an excellent introduction to a vast subject

28/07/2012

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The Guardian

Jonathan Glancey

[A] richly packed, colourful and well-written primer on the role the city plays in our lives … The stuff of lofty intentions and grubby backstreet life, the city represents much of our restless and contradictory natures. "In this dynamic, cosmopolitan space," Smith writes, "lies the wellspring of our creativity as a species. The greatest cities nurture and stimulate ideas in science and the arts that are the very heart of human civilisation. For this reason, sustainable, humane and well-governed cities are our best hope for the future." Amen.

09/06/2012

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The New Yorker

Books Briefly Noted

Smith's enthusiasm for cities sometimes lapses into a generic boosterism that whitewashes their more pernicious aspects. But the book's hodgepodge structure excitingly mirrors the improvised order of cities themselves, and Smith encourages his readers to 'wander and drift,' a strategy liable to generate surprising juxtapositions — as between urban birds, which sing at a higher pitch than birds in the country, and the police drones that fly above the streets of Liverpool.

06/08/2012

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The Independent

David Goldblatt

Does Smith's City have a distinctive or singular aesthetic and architectural style? The core essays are like the better end of new mixed developments. They provide an eminently sensible, quietly ordered, well-written and easily digestible account of a lot of urban history and many of the debates about what makes cities work and fail, grow, shrink and morph. On the other hand, it was just all a bit too clean cut, bland even. It felt like a city without alleys or ruins or edgy zones of transition. I wanted to be a flâneur, dazzled and amazed by the bustle of the streets and the pyrotechnics of the prose, but most of the time I was more of a commuter: putting in a shift, passing time with my reading matter, looking out the window. That's not to say I didn't enjoy my wander through Smith's City: I did. I suppose I just prefer my guides and my cities a little bit more unruly than this.

14/07/2012

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