City Transformed: Urban Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century

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9783823854616: City Transformed: Urban Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century

This work examines the new urbanism which is becoming an increasingly potent force in architecture. The text presents a selection of key projects, dating from the 1990s to the millennium, which exemplify the renaissance of the urban ideal.

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Review:

If the great cities of the world (and a few of the smaller ones) were to come together to conceive a vast international PR campaign that promoted the 21st-century renaissance of the urban center, they could have no more dazzling a view book than this broadly and intelligently conceived compendium of major recent or in-progress projects in 25 different metropolises, from New York, Dallas, and Seattle to London, Paris, Rotterdam, and Bilbao to Kobe, Ho Chi Minh City, and Kuala Lumpur. Rest assured that, somewhere, Jane Jacobs is smiling on City Transformed, which takes as its unifying theme the notion that the postwar urban-planning movement--which destroyed so many lovely, old, walkable city neighborhoods in the interest of brutishly scaled public works or astoundingly ugly "affordable" high-rise housing--has been replaced with the embrace of density, pluralism, mixed-use design, and historic preservation as the chief assets of the reviving, dweller-friendly city--a reclamation of its soul, as it were.

To those ends, the book is divided into four sections: the "healing" of cities that have been scarred by war, poverty or natural disaster (Dallas's Victory District; Berlin's Potsdamer Platz; and the Temple Bar district of newly affluent Dublin, often called its "Marais"); attempts to create new economic and residential life in neglected areas (London's much-chronicled Canary Wharf; and master plans for Ho Chi Minh City's "Saigon South" and for the "new town" of Almere, near Amsterdam); new or extended modes of urban transit (Bilbao's roomy and terrific-looking new metro system, just one of the boomlet of projects that accompanied Frank Gehry's already-legendary Bilbao Guggenheim Museum); and the introduction or revival of various cultural centers (the reconstruction-modernization of London's much-loved Royal Opera House in Covent Garden; and Dominique Perrault's Bibliothèque nationale de France, one of the grands projets to be initiated under the Mitterrand regime, and the centerpiece of a wave of recent development to bring life to Paris's shunned Rive Gauche).

Unfortunately, many of the projects that are featured here, so smartly explained by architectural critic and journalist Kenneth Powell (who has written monographs on the work of Norman Foster and Richard Rogers), are incomplete, and even the more impressive digitally produced plans (for, say, Tadao Ando's Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Modern Art in Kobe) can't capture the color-photographed excitement and drama of such fully executed projects as Van Berkel & Bos's Erasmus Bridge or Bolles-Wilson's Luxor Cinema, which are two of the funkier structures to emerge amidst the recent renewal of Rotterdam's Kop van Zuid district (or--we might as well say it one more time--of Gehry's new Bilbao Guggenheim, which defies spatial logic and seems more like a fantastic hallucination the longer one looks at it). And, although Powell purports that the overarching goal of such pricey new projects is to reclaim the city for "ordinary" people (i.e., those who are at the "street level"), many of the projects that are featured here are funded by our current transglobal corporate affluence, and it remains to be seen how many of them become true lodestones for the genuine revival of neighborhoods, instead of isolated shows of architectural bravura.

Having said that, City Transformedmade me want to pack a light bag, hop an airplane, and complete a short world tour to see these bold new expressions of urban creativity and interaction up close and personal. If an architectural picture book can make one want to do that, as far as I'm concerned, it's done its job several times over. --Timothy Murphy

From the Publisher:

Contrary to the pessimistic popular belief of the recent past, the world's cities continue to thrive and grow. Throughout Europe, North and South America, and even the Far East, urban areas have renewed themselves, not just as centers of industry and employment, but as places that are pleasing to live in and enjoy.

City Transformed celebrates the movement known as "new urbanism," certain to be an increasingly powerful element in world architecture in this century. It highlights a selection of key projects, dating from the 1990s to the millennium and beyond, in cities as diverse and dynamic as Berlin, Seattle, Miami, Kyoto, Lisbon, Genoa, Dublin, London, New York, Shanghai, Rotterdam, Kuala Lumpur, Bilbao, Hong Kong, Lisbon, Barcelona, and Paris-each of which exemplify the renaissance of the urban ideal and the rebirth of an architectural program. Divided into four sections--Healing the City, Extending the City, Cities in Motion, and Culture and the City-it illustrates in 300 full-color and black-and-white photographs, architectural renderings, and models, as well as through fascinating text how architects and planners are currently repairing damaged cities, managing growth, innovatively addressing transportation issues, and building cultural resources. As enlightening as it is optimistic, this vibrant look at today's ever-changing urban areas displays the work of some of the most imaginative and foreword-looking architects of our time as it promotes a vision of city life that is hopeful, exciting, and increasingly rewarding.

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