A Place in Mind: Designing Cities for the 21st Century.

Author:Khirfan, Luna
Position:Book review
 
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Friedman, Avi.

A Place in Mind: Designing Cities for the 21st Century. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Vehicule Press, 2016 (revised edition)

ISBN 9781550654523

In his quest to define "place", Avi Friedman sets out to "offer the fruit of [his] personal and professional quest for the authentically human in places." Indeed, grounded in an experiential approach, this book presents Friedman's reflections, in the form of easy-to-read narratives, on thirteen personal experiences, each of which triggered a particular inquiry.

The book's thirteen chapters are consistent in their structure and presentation starting with an observation about a place that Friedman had personally experienced and which triggers a particular inquiry (through a series of questions), followed by a narration that traces the historic evolution of the inquiry's subject matter until our contemporary era. The places vary: four are in Italy, three in the UK, and the remainder spread over Turkey, China, Israel, Mexico, the USA, and Canada. While he chapters' inquiries also vary, they may be broadly grouped into physical and non-physical subjects. The physical ones highlight eight attributes that are inherent to designing cities, including: eating places like restaurants and coffee houses (chapter 1: Fiore di Zucchini in Montepulciano), architectural styles (chapter 2: Teatime in Istanbul); markets (chapter 3: Turnips in Dalian); children's playgrounds (chapter 4: Swings in Petach Tikva); work spaces (chapter 6: Emails from Broughton Hall); public squares (chapter 8: The Heart of York); public art (chapter 12: The Soapstones of Iqaluit); and sacred spaces/buildings (The Spirit of Assisi). The non-physical subjects feature five approaches, rather than physical attributes, that impact the design of cities, including: a sparing and unwasteful approach to design that decreases consumption (chapter 5: Wandering in Tijuana); an environmentally sensitive approach that builds with not against the natural setting and the landscape (chapter 7: The Winds of Fargo); an historic preservation approach that conserves urban and rural landscapes (chapter 9: The Kitchen of Pina and Felice); a regulatory and legislative approach that promotes a humble and cohesive urban landscape (chapter 10: London's Humility), and last, an accessible and sustainable approach to urban agriculture that ensures food security (chapter 11: The Clay Pots of Matera).

Because of their experiential focus and wide-ranging...

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