A Blog About Urbanism in the Americas and Western Europe
This blog presents the views and insights of the author on urbanism in the Americas and Europe. Reviews focus on the urban history and analysis of key sites, including: Greenwich Village, London, Paris, Rome, Vancouver and beyond.
The reader is invited to read the posts as either urban theory, or tips on what to see and do when visiting any of these destinations.
Contact the Author
Lewis N. Villegas
Principles in Urbanism
In the last decade of the 20th century attention among the city design professionals in the west returned to issues of quantifying or coding urbanism and community design.
In the U.S. the first steps gave shape to the Ahwanee Principles.
In western Canada we are still lost at sea seeming oblivious to the direct link between good places and good government.
In matters of urbanism it is important to recognize that Europe and the regions in the Americas settled before 1800 march to a different beat.
There can be no direct comparison between the urbanism of the western provinces and states, for example, and western Europe. What works and is most enjoyable to experience in one place feels completely out of place in the other.
Yet, in the words of Claude Lévi-Strauss quoted by Milanese architect and town planner Aldo Rossi in the early 1960s: urbanism is the defining characteristic of human consciousness (la chose humaine par excellence). We build the places we inhabit.
Thus, it is possible in my view to identify in the making and meaning of cities functional and experiential correspondences that resonate across time and geography. There are lessons in urbanism to be had in both the ancient streets of the Plaka, in Athens, and a strip mall on the edges of Victoria, British Columbia.
Bridging across great distances in time and geography, we can discover a common element linking all cities and towns in the human experience of place. Beginning from that level, any community can gather together to forge a consensus vision of place and map a course for building a better future.
The challenge of looking at the cities of western civilization in particular, and western urbanism in general, multiply when we move from Western Europe across the Atlantic and up and down the cordilleras.
Yet, a growing literature exists presenting a more comprehensive landscape of sustainable urbanism and its connections to long traditions in western culture. It extends from ancient Greece and Rome to origins likely had in Egypt and Mesopotamia.
A list of books is not always a useful thing. Sometimes it helps to know why the titles are being recommended.
The annotated pages of this bibliography are listed in chronological order. They include titles that are currently of interest professionally, or because they explain the subject matter of urbanism, the making and meaning of the places we call home. Read it here.