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Urbanism without effort

Urbanism without Effort
Island Press

Urbanism without Effort by Charles Wolfe

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Wouldn't it be nice if great cities happened without any effort? While that may be what the title of Charles Wolfe's Urbanism Without Effort seems to imply, in reality what the author means is something a little more complex.Great cities don't materialize out of nothing without any manner of human effort, but consciously designed urban places aren't always successful.

What the author is referring to is that many great urban places have developed organically, without any kind of grand design scheme, and many designed places have failed to live up to expectations. But if that's the case, should we abandon the conscious act of making better cities entirely?

No, says Wolfe. And in fact, successfully practicing what he considers urbanism without effort may in some ways be a more onerous task than taking a more traditional approach. That's because, as he points out, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, no one-stop policy solution. His version of urbanism without effort recommends that urbanists take into account the existing local values and complexities of a given place. These will inevitably vary from place to place, meaning that in some ways designers must start anew in each locale, and to measure success by results over intentions.

What Wolfe ultimately fofersw up is more of a process of creating and remaking cities more than it is a prescription for what makes great cities. He takes the reader on a guided tour through sustainable, organic places old and new, and recommends that practitioners keep diaries, analyze and perceive model examples closely. Once that has been completed, any given solution must be thoroughly scrutinized for its feasibility in a new context. Some European civic elements, for example, may be admired but inappropriate in an American context. It's that kind of intellectual honesty that is perhaps Wolfe's overriding recommendation.

Wouldn't it be nice if great cities happened without any effort? While that may be what the title of Charles Wolfe's Urbanism Without Effort seems to imply, in reality what the author means is something a little more complex.Great cities don't materialize out of nothing without any manner of human effort, but consciously designed urban places aren't always successful.

What the author is referring to is that many great urban places have developed organically, without any kind of grand design scheme, and many designed places have failed to live up to expectations. But if that's the case, should we abandon the conscious act of making better cities entirely?

No, says Wolfe. And in fact, successfully practicing what he considers urbanism without effort may in some ways be a more onerous task than taking a more traditional approach. That's because, as he points out, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, no one-stop policy solution. His version of urbanism without effort recommends that urbanists take into account the existing local values and complexities of a given place. These will inevitably vary from place to place, meaning that in some ways designers must start anew in each locale, and to measure success by results over intentions.

What Wolfe ultimately fofersw up is more of a process of creating and remaking cities more than it is a prescription for what makes great cities. He takes the reader on a guided tour through sustainable, organic places old and new, and recommends that practitioners keep diaries, analyze and perceive model examples closely. Once that has been completed, any given solution must be thoroughly scrutinized for its feasibility in a new context. Some European civic elements, for example, may be admired but inappropriate in an American context. It's that kind of intellectual honesty that is perhaps Wolfe's overriding recommendation.