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Urban Edges, and How to Define the Spaces Beyond

In the city, we blend the familiar with the edge of the unknown.I doubt that before today, any urbanist writer has used an old, Latin term that lives on in southern Italy, to explain the particular wonder of certain city street-ends.  The...

Posted April 8, 2015    

From Village to City, We Are What We Throw Away

We clothe our discarded items in different forms and colors, but our built environments always have small places and features devoted to what we throw away.This observation is nothing profoundly new, or empirically established. But this fundamental...

Posted March 31, 2015    

Using Urban Observation to 'Ghost-Bust' Places

In Seattle, last week, I looked across the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Olive Way, into McGraw Square, and towards the Westin Hotel, noting a Seattle urbanism trifecta—the Lake Union Streetcar, the skillet food truck and one...

Posted March 25, 2015    

Why Cities are Made for Reading, Cover to Cover

Click to view slideshow.Open a book, read only, say, page 77, and the prose may please the mind or heart, but the richness of the story may suffer. Why? Because the plot is still unclear.Reading the city is no different, as represented in the “multi...

Posted February 10, 2015    

From Urbanizing to Urbanism, 2014, According to Facebook Cover Photos

During a year filled with four trips abroad and two months away, many of my 2014 Facebook cover photos helped fill my annual urban and exurban diaries.Themes address the overlapping (and therefore hardly mutually exclusive) nuances of habitation,...

Posted January 7, 2015    

Viewing Urban, 2015

My first two images of 2015 really don’t need captions or narrative. At a glance, they show the viewable factors of context and color, light and dark, land and water, nature and structure, where people work and live and more.These viewable...

Posted January 5, 2015    

Towards Canine Equity in the City

Now is the time for the urban dog.One of the most immediate cultural distinctions a traveler notices in France is omnipresent, well-behaved dogs, often quite unlike their detached American cousins (perhaps including my own). In a matter of a few...

Posted November 25, 2014    

Using 'Plot-Based Urbanism' to Reclaim the Basic Unit of the City

BackgroundIn recent years, urbanists have decried suburban developments on large greenfield properties in favor of a return to diverse, close grain urban fabrics. This granular form of development once served as the foundation for pre-automobile...

Posted November 19, 2014    

On Learning from Urban Immersion

How we experience purchases of coffee and baked goods may sound fairly trivial, and elitist. But, based on my current immersion in the south of France, I have come to think these simple interactions offer valuable lessons for how to live in...

Posted November 17, 2014    

Exploring Mixed Use and the Human Dimension

On a walk from Fréjus to Saint-Raphaël last week, an elderly man asked us, in French, why I had just taken a photograph of his house. I offered to erase the photograph, which was intended to show, in modern urbanist visual language, the delight of a...

Posted November 13, 2014    

The Once and Future Street, and How it Defines Us

A week’s residency in Glasgow, Scotland returns a 2011 essay to the forefront, and its message: In the post-freeway world, recall the important, organic landscape of neighborhood, towers and spires, lost before we can remember. Among the more...

Posted November 3, 2014    

Housing, Politics, and a Basic Pride of Place

Fifth in an illustrated series about place-decoding from the South of France. What do the politics of urban housing have to do with a seasonal caravan park in Provence? For me, the answer is clear. Our political discussions, mired in jargon and...

Posted October 27, 2014