Friday, March 30, 2012

Five notable books on why cities are good for you

Leo Hollis was born in London in 1972, was educated at Stoneyhurst College and studied history at university. He is the author of number books on London including London Rising: The Men Who Made Modern London and the forthcoming Why Cities are Good For You.

With Alec Ash at The Browser, Hollis discussed five top books on why cities are good for you, including:
by Richard Sennett

Tell us about Richard Sennett’s book.

Richard Sennett – a wonderful thinker who has been at the LSE for the last several years – has over a number of decades written very movingly about cities. Together is his latest book, about communities within the city. Cities might well be more creative and efficient, but if there is not that life on the street and community of togetherness, then what is the point? Togetherness, Sennett says, is something we need to learn and practise, not something that is given to us.

I believe in that strongly, that we have to work at being a society and a community. If we all become atomised, then the city isn’t going to work. I do think, however, that because of the potential connections that one has, one is actually less likely to be lonely in the city. That doesn’t mean that people don’t die in their flats and their bodies are not found for many months, and it doesn’t mean that one can’t have an odd sense of existential anomie when standing on the train platform, but we have assumed for too long that cities are places of loneliness. It has become a trope without any actual evidence.

But to challenge the notion of cities as unequivocally good, they are also the setting of such friction and violence. How do we reconcile these aspects of cities, when togetherness goes wrong?

They are undoubtedly places where people rub up against each other, and that is always going to cause problems. It’s inherent. We need to think on that, and design ways in which it is managed. Questions of density or crowding do create a sense of unease. These are things that we need to identify and then come up with solutions to. I don’t think it’s a barrier to the city, and I think it’s something that the city can address itself.
Read about another book Hollis tagged at The Browser.

Also see--Five best books about cities.

--Marshal Zeringue