In September 2020, we are reading “Building and Dwelling – Ethics for the City” by Richard Sennett. This is a complex read, but great for beginners as well as for people who have worked in urban planning their whole life. Jane Jacobs is referenced frequently, as she influenced Sennett a lot.
In the next weeks, you will see the discussion questions and other input for this month’s discussion below. Feel free to use the comment section and also follow us on @urbanismbookclub on Instagram for updates!
In Building and Dwelling, Richard Sennett distils a lifetime’s thinking and practical experience to explore the relationship between the good built environment and the good life. He argues for, and describes in rich detail, the idea of an open city, one in which people learn to manage complexity. He shows how the design of cities can enrich or diminish the everyday experience of those who dwell in them.
The book ranges widely – from London, Paris and Barcelona to Shanghai, Mumbai and Medellin in Colombia – and draws on classic thinkers such as Tocqueville, Heidegger, Max Weber, and Walter Benjamin. It also draws on Sennett’s many decades as a practical planner himself, testing what works, what doesn’t, and why. He shows what works ethically is often the most practical solution for cities’ problems.
This is a humane and thrilling book, which allows us to think freshly about how we live in cities. The experience and wisdom of the author are visible on every page. His voice is distinctive and engaging. It should attract anyone interested in the physical circumstances of civilization.