Introduction

The space of everyday urbanism is a rich and complex amalgam of wide boulevards and trash-strewn alleys, luxurious stores and street vendors, manicured lawns and dilapidated public parks; it is a product of the intricate social, political, economic, and aesthetic forces at work in the contemporary urban environment. Everyday space can be spirited, spontaneous, vital, and inclusive; all too often it is neglected by its inhabitants, ignored by city planners, and disregarded by critics. The essays collected in Everyday Urbanism offer both an analysis of and a method for working within the city in a volume that, in its multiple voices and evocative illustrations, itself mirrors the space of the everyday.

The first section of the book, “Looking at the City,” examines late-twentieth-century urban life: strip malls, edge cities, and rampant suburbanization. Discussions of the history, theory, and practice of city design underlie each text, and the traditional disciplines of urban planning and urban design are augmented by an emphasis on the primacy of human experience and a close observation of lived realities. The essays and photographic studies explore the city as a social product a kind of social geography to illustrate a new, multidimensional understanding of everyday space.

“Making the City,” the second part of the book, challenges the formalism of architecture and the abstraction of planning with projects that address specific topics, problems, and opportunities within the urban environment. Small public parks complete with dog drinking fountains, neighborhood places combining civic and commercial amenities, and the use of observation and improvisation in city planning are based on a consideration of daily routines and emphasize the importance of local communities and customs. Creative, improvised, experimental, both individual and inclusive everyday urbanism is the space of public life at the turn of the twenty-first century.

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