Landry, Charles. The Art of City Making.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Sandalack, Bev
Pub Date: 12/22/2008
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Winter, 2008 Source Volume: 17 Source Issue: 2
Topic: NamedWork: The Art of City Making (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Landry, Charles
Accession Number: 210868156
Full Text: Landry, Charles.

The Art of City Making.

London/Sterling, VA: Earthscan, 2006, reprinted 2007.

462 pp.

ISBN: 9781844072453.

A recent argument is that good cities depend on the arts and culture for their success and vibrancy. Charles Landry's The Art of City Making builds on the ideas he previously advanced in The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators (2000).

Landry has a lot to say about cities, and how they might be better, or "to be the best and most imaginative city for the world." At close to 500 pages, The Art of City Making is a dense read. Two 8-page colour sections break up the text, which is otherwise sparsely illustrated with black and white photographs. This is a departure from The Creative City, which, despite being a book on creativity, included no images, and only a couple of charts.

The book is organized in seven chapters and many subsections. The "Overture" introduces some of the main themes of the book. Chapter Two discusses "The Sensory Landscape of Cities" including "smellscapes" and "soundscapes". Chapter Three ("Unhinged and Unbalanced") details the consumption of resources for morning routines of having a cup of tea, washing, putting out the garbage, and taking the metro to work, and suggests, through a depressing account of various urban miseries including poverty, gang wars, human trafficking, the commercial dominance of shopping malls and bland architecture, that the world might be "de-civilizing".

Chapter Four "Repertoires and Resistance" starts to hint at the remedies: the use of culture or arts in city development (the "repertoire"), and projects and movements against globalization (the "resistance"). Chapter Five "The Complicated and the Complex" describes various "battlegrounds," including the struggle between environmentalism and technology, social equity and disparity, central and local, speed and reflection, authenticity and globalism. Landry is not pleased with the state of cities, blaming over-specialization of professions and the tendency to work in silos (an outdated observation), and he suggests new approaches and the creation of "the new generalist."

Chapter Six outlines how we might achieve "The City as a Living Work of Art." Thirty-three subsections--almost all have the prefix 're-' (for example, re-enchanting, rebalancing, reigniting, repairing)--say in various ways that we must first revisit first principles then begin again.

Chapter Seven describes several "Creative Cities for the World." After bashing Dubai, Landry extols the virtues of Singapore, Barcelona, Bilbao and Curitiba. This is one of the more interesting chapters, since Landry gets into some detail about the public realm improvements of Barcelona that turned it around, and Curitiba Mayor Jaime Lerner's approach to 'urban acupuncture' and the wide range of innovative projects that he initiated. The key to success, says Landry, is creativity, a quality that is never very well defined, although cities are encouraged to embrace it, through initiatives such as establishing creativity ambassadors and bringing diverse individuals and groups together (for example a homeless person and a digital media company).

Landry's intent with this book is to "usher in a new spirit of the times" in which new values will prevail. It is difficult to argue with any of this, and the fact that Landry has two best-selling books and has made a successful career of advising cities on how to improve their creativity quotient points to a fairly widespread appetite for what he is saying. But it is hard to determine what, exactly, Landry is calling for. Much of the book is a polemic itemizing in detail the ills that might and do occur in cities, and the connections between the previously described creative cities and the initiatives Landry proposes are not clear.

Cities are not stage sets, nor do they exist for our entertainment alone. Creativity and the presence of artists are among the effects, rather than the causes, of good cities. A danger is that administrators and planners may mistake Landry's exhortations for real direction on how to plan and design cities; the form, and not just the program, is what we need to get right, and this is better served by consulting the tried and true texts (for example, Edward Relph's The Modern Urban Landscape is a much better account of the state of the contemporary city), and returning to a strong urban design approach, rather than jumping on this bandwagon.

Bev Sandalack, Professor and Coordinator, Urban Design Program, and Director, The Urban Lab, Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.