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Seeing the Better City

How to Explore, Observe, and Improve Urban Space

Charles R. Wolfe



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Island Press
15 February 2017
In order to understand and improve cities today, personal observation remains as important as ever. While big data, digital mapping, and simulated cityscapes are valuable tools for understanding urban space, "using them without on-the-ground, human impressions risks creating places that do not reflect authentic local context. Seeing the Better City brings our attention back to the real world right in front of us, focusing it once more on the sights, sounds, and experiences of place in order to craft policies, plans, and regulations to shape better urban environments.

Through clear prose and vibrant photographs, Charles Wolfe shows those who experience cities how they might catalogue the influences of Urban form, neighbourhood dynamics, public transportation, and myriad other basic city elements that impact their daily lives. He then shares insights into how they can use those observations to Contribute to better planning" and design indecisions. "Wolfe calls this the' "urban diary" approach, and highlights how the perspective of the observer is key to understanding the dynamics of urban space.

He concludes by offering contemporary examples and guidance on how to use carefully recorded and organised observations as a tool to create change in urban planning conversations and practice. From city-dwellers to elected officials involved 'in local planning and design issues, this book is an invaluable tool for constructive, creative discourse about improving urban space.
By:   Charles R. Wolfe
Imprint:   Island Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 229mm,  Width: 152mm,  Spine: 15mm
Weight:   363g
ISBN:   9781610917742
ISBN 10:   161091774X
Pages:   256
Publication Date:   15 February 2017
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Unspecified

Charles R. Wolfe provides a unique perspective about cities as both a long time writer about urbanism world Wide and as an attorney in Seattle, where he focuses on land use and environmental law. He is also an Affiliate Associate Professor in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington, where he teaches land-use law at the graduate level. Wolfe contributes regularly on urban development topics for several publications including CityLab, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post,,, and He blogs at

Reviews for Seeing the Better City: How to Explore, Observe, and Improve Urban Space

If we want to create the places of our dreams, we need to observe our cities more clearly. <i>Seeing the Better City</i> is both a thoughtful guide and an enticement to take up this challenge. --Charles Montgomery Author of <i>Happy City</i>

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