Cities are experiencing a renaissance today, in part because we’ve begun to understand how they really work — and how to make them work better for people.
A new book, Cities Alive: Jane Jacobs, Christopher Alexander, and the Roots of the New Urban Renaissance, by Michael W. Mehaffy is a lively, readable account of two revealing figures in the history of that renaissance: the urban economist Jane Jacobs and the architect Christopher Alexander.
Their key insights have shaped several generations of scholars, professionals, and activists. However, as the book argues, this renaissance is still immature, and more must be done to achieve its promise — especially in an age of rapid, often sprawling urbanization.
The author is a noted scholar on both Jacobs and Alexander, and a participant in the development of the “New Urban Agenda,” a historic United Nations agreement emphasizing the pivotal role of cities and towns in meeting the challenges of the future. As the book documents, Jacobs and Alexander played key roles in formulating the conceptual insights behind the New Urban Agenda, and they continue to offer us crucial implementation lessons for the years ahead.
This book is ideal for students, professionals, government officials, activists, and anyone who is interested in the future of cities.
“Lively and easy to read… very helpfully brings the ideas of Jacobs and Alexander to our discussions of the future of city. The final chapters really shine, outlining the ways that their “complex systems thinking” produces key concepts for urban planning and design — with the help of Mehaffy, translating their work into useful knowledge and practices.” — Setha Low, Director, Public Space Research Group, The Graduate Center, CUNY
“I can’t think of anyone better to write this important book than Michael Mehaffy – one of the most thoughtful and articulate writers on both Jane Jacobs and Christopher Alexander. They are both pioneers of the placemaking movement that is now becoming global.” — Fred Kent, President, Project for Public Spaces