The Seduction of Place
The History and Future of Cities
By Joseph Rykwert
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375700446, 336pp.)
Publication Date: March 12, 2002
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No other place on earth is as full both of promise and of dread as the city; it is at once alienating and exciting. These concentrations of people have not, however, come about as the result of vast immutable, impersonal forces, but because of human choices. The worsening or betterment of urban life will also be the result of choices. Our choices.
That cities display and represent the personal desires of their inhabitants is central to Joseph Rykwert’s argument in The Seduction of Place. Insisting that they are the physical constructs of communities, he travels through history to trace their roots in ancient times and outlines current attempts and future possibilities to improve the metropolis. Rykwert includes a broad range of urban landscapes: 18th-and 19th-century Paris and London, the current sprawl of Mexico City and Cairo, planned cities like Brasilia, and, finally, New York, the world capital.
Always opinionated and often controversial, Rykwert assesses how and why urban projects from the past succeeded or failed and what lessons can be drawn from them for the future. Ultimately, The Seduction of Place is a deeply felt and powerfully reasoned call for a commitment by every citizen to the creation of a more humane place to live.
Joseph Rykwert, author of ten previous books, including The Idea of a Town, is Cret Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Rykwert is a gloriously erudite, ingeniously speculative historian and critic of architecture.”–Susan Sontag
“[A] wealth of incidental observations and reflections by a mature scholar.”–The Washington Post Book World
“[Rykwert] writes elegantly and well, and he knows his subject…. The narrative truly swings along…with great verve and pace.”–The Wall Street Journal
“A great historian . . . one of the profession’s treasures and a writer of sobriety and dash.”
"Far-ranging, idiosyncratic, discursive . . . " The New York Review of Books