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A History of Future Cities Paperback – 20 May 2014

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (20 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393348865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393348866
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 562,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


An intimate, canny comparative study . . . . Accessible, entertaining. . . . Enormously elucidating and relevant. --Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Daniel Brook is the author of The Trap and a journalist whose work has appeared in publications including Harper's, The Nation and Slate.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'd read about the book on LBR and was searching for it online and bought it through amazon.It arrived on time and the packaging was great.I enjoyed reading the book as well.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars 29 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Each metropolis conjures the captivating yet discomfiting sense of disorientation." 21 Feb. 2013
By Amelia Gremelspacher - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book follows the inception and the progress of four cities; St. Petersburg ,Shanghai, Bombay, and Dubai. They share two important characteristics: they were planned as cities of the future and they are Eastern cities oriented toward the West. He points out that Orient is a noun meaning east and a verb meaning to place oneself in space. All four of these cities were founded on a vision. Peter the Great converted a swampy backwater into his vision of Amsterdam, then the wealthiest city on the earth. Historians have often noted that the city appeared as if set there from the sky. Shanghai was the vision of foreign investors. After forcing China to open its gates to trade, they developed Shanghai as the modern foreign capital of import/export. Bombay was modeled on the British model of civilization and commerce. Dubai was the dream of a sheikh to build infrastructure and convert a desert into the center of the world.

The premise of the city of tomorrow is a fascinating one, and this book is a wealth of information. Brook has a scholarly style and the reading is dense but accessable. I am familiar with all four cities, but was interested and surprised by many of the observations. Brooks compares and contrasts the cities through the years of their growth and development. In Dubai's case, there are not so many years. He discusses how the architecture reflects the philosophy of each period and traces the trends of building in context of politics. In the final section, he examines the status of each city and the ways it has or has not lived to the dream of its inception.

Most cogent to me was reading how each of the cities had the same startling appearance to the world in their birth as Dubai presents now. Each city has had a dream for its citizens, although mostly this dream was only meant for the wealthy and sometimes for some nationalities and not others. But in its day, each city depended for its growth on the huge numbers of refugees seeking work and shelter within its walls. It is a fascinating premise and a book well worth reading.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perceptive and highly readable 30 Mar. 2013
By Peter M. Norman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a matter of full disclosure, I'll admit that I'm a long-time friend of the author's, a fact that upon finishing this book fills me with both pride and a little bit of envy. It's a brilliant book, and for starters far more gracefully written and genuinely funny than a book of its intellectual ambition has a right to be. Dan is the anti-Thomas Friedman: he visits the "flattest", most globalized places on earth and emerges with (often hilarious) stories that illustrate both the uniqueness and the humanity of their inhabitants.

On to that intellectual ambition. As I see it, the book concerns two pressing questions.

First, when will we reach a point where "modernity" is no longer "Western" any more than agrarian culture is "Sumerian"? To some degree, the answer might lie elsewhere from the four cities the book considers: Tokyo and Seoul come to mind as cities that are both thoroughly modern and thoroughly non-Western (or at least that show the ability to assimilate Western influences on their own terms). But for much of the world, the legacies of colonialism and underdevelopment remain pressing realities. In describing the history of St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Dubai, the book gives a clear impression of how the Russian, Chinese, Indian, and Emirati inhabitants of their global cities struggled with the implications of aspiring to foreign, modern ideals and contending with the power of foreign, modern institutions.

Second, what does it mean for a city to be "organic" in an age where powerful agents, whether the Chinese Community Party, Dubai Inc., or the private developers of Mumbai, can finance and project manage ready-made districts constituting entire cultural milieus. To the extent that the cities described in the book inflict on cultural vertigo their inhabitants, they are extreme examples of the scale on which urban development now happens throughout the world. In Atlanta, there might not be a need or demand for an English-themed suburban village complete with British-style public school, but there are developments on the scale of towns or even small cities that cater to buyers of homes in the $220,000 to $240,000 range. What does it mean for our social and cultural environments to be curated by powerful institutions? Implicit in the book's probing of the meaning of these Frankensteinian cities is the question of how residents of any contemporary city form their own genuine culture.

Highly recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! 24 Jun. 2014
By Pierre Gauthier - Published on
Format: Paperback
In this very original book, the author draws convincing parallels between four cities that are far apart, both geographically and culturally: Saint Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai and Dubai.

The quantity and quality of research is remarkable, a wide range of enlightening details being provided. Though some may judge certain sentences to be intricately constructed, the work is well written and well organized. Each chapter deals with a phase of development in a single city. Chapters are placed chronologically so that the reader lively moves from one city to the next as he plunges ahead.

Apart from changing its odd title, the only improvement that could be made to this work is with regards to illustrations. As things are, black and white maps are provided at the beginning of the book locating the four cities and giving some level of detail for each and a few black and white photos are inserted here and there. So much more pertinent information could be conveyed with an abundance of well positioned colour photos and maps!

Still, this fascinating book provides a unique point of view on the history of the past three centuries and is warmly recommended to all interested in the evolution of cities.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Urban histories, but weak ending. 18 Mar. 2013
By edc - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For anyone interested in the urban development of Shanghai, Mumbai, St Petersburg, or Dubai, the respective chapters on these cities are well written, entertaining, and informative, providing keen insights into the urban design of these cities, and the relationship between urban planning and the socioeconomic systems in each. Unfortunately, the promised "future cities" never appear - and where one would expect some kind of thesis or proposal or urban design guidelines, there's nothing - the book just ends and the reader is left to draw his own conclusions.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written book. 14 Nov. 2014
By PlatoFromTexas - Published on
Format: Paperback
The author selects 4 cities of the world (St Petersburg, Shangai, Bombay, and Dubai) to answer the question - what will cities of the future look like? Do these cities provide a blueprint for the future or is it just a mirage? The writing is good and his repetitive cycling thru the 4 cities chronologically, from past to present, over the many sections of the book helps the reader to build a historical perspective on each city. It is well researched and I enjoyed reading his style of writing.

I am not sure if the author really concludes with a solid yes or no to the question of "blueprint or mirage?". But the information provided in the book leads me to believe that whatever and wherever the next glitzy star city that is yet to be born, it will be a sad repetition of these 4 cities. All 4 places strike me as inhumane places. Built at the expense of the lives of hundreds of thousands of poor for the pleasure of the wealthy and powerful. The reading emanates a surreal feel to these places. A sense that the lower economic classes of society are to be hidden from view, don't live by the same rules, and exist to service a higher class. These cities seem merely to be the playground of the rich where the poor struggle to survive. Frankly I found it to be an informative but depressing read. These cities are indeed gargantuan mirages where the pull of paradise will strip a person of his humanity.
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