Friday, May 31, 2013

Green book review: Urbanism Without Effort by Charles Wolfe

Urbanism is is gaining more attention these days as we're heading towards a planet where the vast majority of people live in cities, not to mention the fact that as Alex Steffen claims we can't effectively fight climate change without looking first at the way our cities are built.

The book we review today is exploring this issue in great depth and is an important addition to the ongoing discussion about urbanism. The book is:

Urbanism Without Effort by Charles R. Wolfe (publisher: Island Press)

What this book is about?

This beautifully illustrated short e-book explores the idea that to create vibrant, sustainable cities, we must first understand what happens naturally when people congregate in cities – innate, unprompted interactions of urban dwellers with each other and their surrounding environment. Good places are rooted in acknowledgement of a city’s history and the everyday uses of urban space. 

Wolfe argues that city dwellers invariably celebrate environments where and when they can coexist safely, in a mutually supportive way and believes such celebration is most interesting when it occurs spontaneously – seemingly without effort. He contends it is critical to first isolate these spontaneous and latent examples of successful urban land use, before applying any prescriptive government policies or initiatives. 

Wolfe provides something rare in contemporary urbanist writing – rich illustrations and examples from real life – both historical and current. His writing about the past and the future of urban form offers readers inspiration, historical context, and a better understanding of how a sustainable, inviting urban environment is created. 

About the author
Charles R. (Chuck) Wolfe, M.R.P., J.D. provides a unique perspective about cities as both a long time writer about urbanism worldwide and an attorney in Seattle, where he focuses on land use and environmental law and permitting. He is also an Affiliate Associate Professor in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington, where he teaches land use law at the graduate level. He contributes regularly to several publications.

Our review:

In this book, we take a look at urban life, both past and present. It is evident that the author has an extensive knowledge and passion for this subject matter. I could tell that he has spent years and hours doing research and studying it. He is still excited about this subject to a point that I will never be able to attain. That feeling of passion and excitement comes through in the writing.  

The book itself was very informative and does provide a new and maybe even better understanding of how a sustainable as well as inviting urban environment can be created. However, it was a bit dull at times for me the everyday reader. I do think it will be useful and appealing to teachers, professors, and students and even companies and city project planners with regard to learning how and putting into effect better urban planning and land use, so that we can in fact create that sustainable city that we all do want. One that is also filled with beauty. 

The photos within the book are wonderful. They take you all over the world and show life as it is being lived now and before. They are absolutely breathtaking. My favorite aspect of the book actually All in all a pretty good book. I do recommend it to anyone that is interested in this subject.

You can purchase the book in an electronic format on and Apple store.


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