Every golden age has been an urban age; throughout history, cities have provided a crucible for creativity. How do such belles époquescome about? Why should the creative flame burn so uniquely in cities and not in the countryside, and why does the creative and innovative spirit of one city inevitably yield to another? Cities in Civilization explores these issues and others related to the central role of cities, past and present, in the fostering of artistic, philosophical, scientific, and technological genius.
Peter Hall devoted 15 years of his life conceptualizing, researching, and writing Cities in Civilization. His extraordinary efforts are apparent in the analytical scope, historical depth, and sheer length of the book, which, including photographs and a bibliography, is well over 1,000 pages. Supporting his argument with ample reference to dates, historical figures, and citations of leading urban scholars, the book does not lend itself to casual, cover-to-cover reading. Despite the book's length, though, it remains easy to navigate through the case studies of individual cities. Hall systematically divides the text into five thematic chapters, further subdividing each chapter chronologically by city. The chapters explore themes of cultural creativity, technological and economic innovation, the urban fusion of art and technology, urban innovation, and the partnership of the private and public sector to promote urban development and regeneration.
Breaking from other leading scholars in the field, Hall does not consider the great city doomed. Instead, Cities in Civilization testifies to his confidence that cities of the 21st century, like the great cities of the past, will successfully work to solve their own problems and ameliorate their own ills. --Bertina Loeffler [via]