O'Donoghue, Daniel P.

Author:Hartt, Maxwell
Position::Ed - Book review
 
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O'Donoghue, Daniel P. (ed). Urban Transformations: Centres, Peripheries and Systems Farham, UK: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2014. 209 pages ISBN-978-1-4094-6851-6

The definition and interpretation of what is considered "urban" is in constant flux. Debates regarding the precise terminology of places have resulted in continuously changing typologies that reflect the complexity of cities and their hinterland. Urban Transformations: Centres, Peripheries and Systems, a collection of discrete chapters by members of the International Geographical Union Urban Commission, explores the relationship between core and peripheral areas at a range of historical, spatial and conceptual scales. The goal of the book, as articulated by editor Daniel P. O'Donoghue, is to provide students with "real exposure to, and understanding of, the evolving form and function of cities and their associated peripheral regions as well as their impact on modern twenty-first century landscapes." As a collection of essays, the book presents varied and interesting case studies, however, as an educational resource the book is hindered by awkward organization and the dissimilarity cases. The wide temporal and geographic range covered in the book, coupled with extensive context-dependent details within each chapter, makes it difficult to grasp the broader understanding that the editor seeks.

Thematically, the book is built around the idea of "urban transformations. "The broadness of the theme is reflected in the diverse array of topics covered. Many chapters touch on, and a few focus on, the changing spatial structure of urban areas, however, the majority of chapters are stand-alone products with little relation to the rest of the book. Beyond the sweeping catchall of "urban transformations," it is difficult to identify many other threads tying the different chapters together as the focus shifts from Internet services in Madrid to riots in England, or childcare in Tokyo to segregation in South Africa.

The diversity of the chapters helps fulfill the editor's goal of providing students with real exposure to a range of global urban evolution case studies. As individual pieces of work, the chapters provide insight to the resilience and transformative processes of cities, but unfortunately the sum does not provide much more than the individual parts. Despite some strong sections, overall the book is hindered by three significant shortcomings.

First, the book's organization is not intuitive. The...

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