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Sustaining a City's Culture and Character

Principles and Best Practices

Charles R. Wolfe, Tigran Haas


List Price: 65.00*
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Somewhere, between character and caricature, there exists an authentic--a truly unique--urban place, that blends global and local, old and new. Yet, in a dramatically changing world dominated by crises of climate change, maintaining public health, and social justice, finding such places--and explaining their relevance--may be easier said than done. Sustaining a City's Culture and Character accepts that challenge, and provides a comprehensive method for assessing how and why successful places come to be, with an explicit emphasis on context: Authenticity, culture, character, and uniqueness are words with meanings that depend on who is using them and in what contexts. Through text interwoven with 160 full-color photographs by the author, and select illustrations by others, this book addresses how to enact blended and contextualized urban change, using the past and the status quo as catalysts rather than castaways. It provides resources and examples for the context-vetting process and for understanding how one era, object, or generation informs the next. This beautiful full-color book illustrates how we can understand--or unlock-- a public place, neighborhood, or city. Based on comparative experiences around the world, the book proposes a new tool--called LEARN (Look, Engage, Assess, Review, and Negotiate) --as a way of sustaining urban culture and character in transformative times. Inspired by recent efforts and outcomes, the book is full of relevant examples. They include moving a small Swedish city, reviving Irish market towns, and revitalization efforts adjacent to London's Waterloo Station. Sustaining a City's Culture and Character provides a catalog of techniques that emphasize "bottom up," resident-based input about local history, building forms, natural and open spaces, cultural assets and tradition, and related policy, planning, and regulatory examples. For those who seek an urbanism of distinctiveness to enhance city livability, rather than a bland, generic uniformity, the book examines on a global basis how the many interrelated facets of an urban area's unique, yet dynamic context--built, social, cultural and intangible--can be championed and advanced, rather than simply borrowed from another place.

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 9781538133248, 280pp.

Publication Date: March 15, 2021

About the Author

Charles R. Wolfe is a London-based, multinational urbanism consultant, author, visiting scholar in Sweden, recent Fulbright specialist in Australia for an award-winning project, and long-time American environmental/land use lawyer. He holds a graduate degree in regional planning and has 34 years of experience in environmental, land use, and real estate law. He has held leadership positions in both the legal and planning professions. He has represented public and private clients in property redevelopment, regulatory entitlements, drafting and brownfield remediation issues in Washington State and other venues. He is founder and principal advisor of Seeing Better Cities Group, has practiced at several law firms, and has served as a long-time affiliate associate professor in the College of the Built Environments at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he has taught land use law and contributed to major research efforts addressing urban center and brownfield redevelopment. He has written regularly for many publications, including The Atlantic, The Atlantic Cities/CityLab, Governing, CityMetric, Planetizen, The Huffington Post, Grist, and Crosscut. He blogs at He is the author of Seeing the Better City and Urbanism Without Effort . Tigran Haas is associate professor of urban planning and urban design, former director of Civitas Athenaeum Laboratory (CAL), current director of the Centre for the Future of Places (CFP), and the director of the Graduate Program in Urbanism at the School of Architecture and the Built Environment at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. He has studied in the United States, former Yugoslavia (BiH and Croatia), and Sweden and has also completed postdoctoral fellowships at MIT, Boston, UC Berkeley, and the University of Michigan. Haas holds advanced degrees in architecture, urban planning and design, environmental science and regional planning. He has written more than fifty scholarly articles, thirty-five conference papers, five books, four research anthologies, and has been involved in teaching in international educational programs.