Reading Summary Spiro Kostof’s book, The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History, begins with an introduction by the. Review: The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings throughout History by Spiro Kostof; The City Assembled: The Elements of Urban Form throughout. Spanning the ages and the globe, Spiro Kostof explores the city as a “repository of cultural meaning” and an embodiment of the community it shelters. Widely.
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The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History by Spiro Kostof
Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Spanning the ages and the globe, Spiro Kostof explores the city as a “repository of cultural meaning” and an embodiment of the community it shelters.
With hundreds of photographs and drawings that illustrate Professor Kostof’s inno Spanning the ages and the globe, Spiro Kostof explores the city as dity “repository of cultural meaning” and an embodiment of the community it shelters. With hundreds of photographs and drawings that illustrate Professor Kostof’s innovative ideas, this has become one of the most important works on urbanization.
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Lists with This Book. Dec 04, Michael rated it really liked it. A Classic, I suppose, sahped for the history of Urban Design, I finally ciyy around to dusting my 14 year old copy off to actually read and now haltingly going through its sister edition, The City Assembled.
This was definitely worth the effort. And this was published before Google – which I might call something of a compromise between research and laziness. So that issue permeates the book but, all in all, I highly recommend this for any urban design enthusiast. Apr 09, Frank Stein rated shaed it was amazing. Its pretty damned impressive.
Instead of a typical comprehensive “history of the city,” Kostof finds simple urban forms, such as “the grid” or “the boulevard,” and traces their evolution and interpretation across hundreds of years.
Not in any simple and easy to read sspiro order, mind-you, but in a sort of inspired free association. In a few heavily illustrated pages he’ll jump from the 8th century shaper of Chinese capital Chang’an, and its monarchical and imperialistic tendencies, to the d Its pretty damned impressive. In a few heavily illustrated pages he’ll jump from the 8th century grid of Chinese capital Chang’an, and its monarchical and imperialistic tendencies, to the democratic Jeffersonian land survey of the US, to the extensions of medieval garrison towns in France.
On one hand I’m glad I read it all because its all worth reading, but its so dense and so convoluted that one’s eyes can glaze over the pages of obscure names of small cities and long-dead kings. Flipping through it again makes me realize how much I missed. Full of information, interpretation, and analysis. Extremely clear, very thought-provoking.
Sep 18, Prajakta Ravi Vemula rated it it was amazing. Aug 05, Aaron Arnold rated it really liked it Shelves: As a history of urban forms, The City Shaped is full of a lot of interesting insights into how and why various planners both public and private have chosen certain layouts for cities, and how human patterns of usage both are and aren’t shaped by the forms those planners have tried to choose for them.
As an example, the grid pattern has been both praised and criticized for seemingly contradictory things – it supposedly either constrains human behavior and forces them into lifeless, regimented o As a history of urban forms, The City Shaped is full of a lot of interesting insights into how and why various planners both public and private have chosen certain layouts for cities, and how human patterns of usage both are and aren’t shaped by the forms those planners have tried to choose for them.
As an example, the grid pattern has been both praised and criticized for seemingly contradictory things – it supposedly either constrains human behavior and forces them into lifeless, regimented order; or it’s an efficient, predictable substrate that encourages growth, simplifies transportation, and democratizes the cityscape.
Not that forms are completely neutral, but humans are a lot more adaptable then any other animal, which is why our civic forms don’t play the same role that the honeycomb does to the hive. Kostof has a dizzying array of examples of how seemingly similar patterns can result in very different cityscapes, in the same culture and even in shaed same city.
Take boulevards, which used to be primarily roads marking the boundary between city and country before they became synonymous with avenues: This two-way street sorry between people and urban building blocks informs the organization of the book. Kostof will take a topological concept, like that of the “organic plan” as opposed to that soulless grid; ironically, deliberately “organic” patterns usually require much more advance planning than a grid, and as a result put more constraints on the lives of residentsdescribe its typical usage and variations throughout history, and enumerate examples of how different societies have used that idea, what it meant to them, and what the eventual effects were on the lives of the people who had to live in the end product.
Small things, like Baron Hausmann’s attempts to make the facades of Parisian buildings consistent, as they are to this day, can be looked at as either heavy-handed government conformity projects or as as insightful bit of forethought that has given the city such a famous, beloved aspect that it’s literally illegal to change it now.
Some of the best and most interesting parts were where Kostof examined utopian ideals of planning, which have a long history dating back to Plato’s Republic and even before. He drew an interesting parallel between plans intended for surveillance, like Jeremy Bentham’s famous Panopticon, and the radial plans of settlements where where power was designed to be at the center. What is it that makes designers of social systems think that they need to design cities as well?
What makes them think it will be effective? The book seem to jump around and digress a bit, since it’s organized by urban form, but it’s no less interesting for it. You see repeatedly cities designed as market towns, military camps, defensive bastions, population overflow catchments, religious centers, administrative capitals, communes, ports, and all sorts of things trying to find their identity while being prodded from all directions, and the way that cities grow and change over time is really interesting to see, especially with all the neat illustrations.
Unfortunately the book has a really bad and weak ending – Kostof hates skyscrapers and lauds attempts to reduce them, in passages as meaningless as they are full of high-flown rhetoric. He puts in a lot of confused ideological-aesthetic verbiage about how skyscrapers are symbols of the excesses of capitalism and how they destroy the character of cities. I personally think that skyscrapers not only look really cool, they are incredibly useful for allowing large numbers of people to get together and make livings without having to sprawl out in all directions.
Kostof does not deign to actually run any numbers on how expensive and environmentally damaging his anti-skyscraper stance is, but if you stop reading before that section or just stick to looking at its pictures you will have read a very interesting and comprehensive survey on an underappreciated topic. You certainly won’t look at the next plaza you see in the same way again. Mar 02, Anahita added it.
Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History. Anyone interested in the built environment who hasn’t read it. Aug 30, Blair rated it it was amazing Shelves: Kostof’s appreciation for the allocation of space and the cultural repercussions therein are well worth wading through the reference-like presentation. A great take on urban anthropology. Dec 04, Theo ‘coco’ added it. Apr 27, Margaret marked it as to-read Shelves: Feb 15, kathryn added it Shelves: Elena rated it really liked it May 12, Pam rated it it was amazing Mar 16, Tanisha De rated it really liked it Nov 19, William Hsu rated it really liked it Feb 05, Youssef rated it it was amazing Sep 22, Jason Beske rated it really liked it Oct 16, Scott O’Dell rated it it was amazing Jan 02, Shail rated it it was amazing May 04, Ben Gwalchmai rated it really liked it Jul 17, Nov 16, John Andrews rated it liked it Shelves: Better illustrations than Mumford’s book but not nearly as interesting to read.
Christopher Hillard rated it really liked it Oct 19, Shrila Mitra rated it liked it Nov 01, Cris rated it it was amazing Mar 19, Brendan T rated it really liked it Jan 14, Amruta rated it it was amazing Jan 24, Paul Sas rated it really liked it Jun 16, Jasmine rated it liked it Jul 20, Bob Sitkowski rated it it was ok Apr 13, Amparo Leon rated it did not like it Jun 23, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.
Spiro Konstantine Kostof was a leading architectural historian, and professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
His books continue to be widely read and some are routinely used in collegiate courses on architectural history. Infollowing his death, the Society of Architectural Historians established the “Spiro Kostof Award,” to recognize books “in sbaped spirit of Kostof’s writings,” pa Spiro Konstantine Kostof was a leading architectural historian, and professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Reversing Urban Dystrophy
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