11 November 2014

Book review: Good Cities, Better Lives: How Europe Discovered the Lost Art of Urbanism

Book review: Good Cities, Better Lives: How Europe Discovered the Lost Art of Urbanism

Peter Hall Good Cities, Better Lives: How Europe Discovered the Lost Art of UrbanismRoutledgeAbingdon and New York2013356 pp.: 978 0 415 84022 4,£34.00/US$55.95 (pbk)
  1. Eduardo Oliveira
  1. University of Groningen, the Netherlands
With contributions from Nicholas Falk, founder Director of the URBED, Peter Hall’s new book, Good Cities, Better Lives: How Europe Discovered the Lost Art of Urbanism, is a critical, rigorous and deeply researched account of how to create better cities and towns in which citizens can live, work and play. In addition, the book adds much to the practice of urban planning, just as an emerging urban world and third wave of cities take shape on the global landscape (Scott, 2012). It provides lessons for countries facing urban dilemmas, social inequalities and spatial challenges. Emerging cities, intrinsically intertwined with complex globalisation processes, which bind them ever more tightly together as mutually dependent nodes, are facing a bewildering urban illness. The third-wave of urbanisation (Scott, 2012) causes spatial issues such as traffic congestion, pollution, high land consumption, a shortage of affordable housing, insufficient infrastructures and difficulty in locating sewage and waste treatment plants. These features are the new urban questions that Brenner (2000) refers to, and which government authorities seem unable to address (Balducci et al., 2011). Peter Hall associates some of these urban complexities with urban Britain. The author states that efforts to generate growth, and spread it to the poorer areas of cities in the UK, have failed dismally. Britain, which a century and half ago became the first urban nation, has now become the first to lead an ‘anti-urbanisation counter-revolution’ (p. 3).
Peter Hall has been debating that British planners have steadily slipped backwards in the art of urbanism. Britain’s European neighbours such as Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and France have overtaken the UK in the art of planning and designing good cities. Following an analysis of Britain’s current failings, he takes (…)