The ge­nius of the metropolis

The Australian - The Deal - - Ideas and Books -

Leo Hol­lis; Blooms­bury, 407pp.

I walk to work and live my life in­side a few square kilo­me­tres, like a me­dieval me­chanic. As Lewis Mum­ford and Jane Jacobs ex­plained 50 years ago, this is the way cities are sup­posed to func­tion, with peo­ple closely con­nected to ev­ery­body in their lives. Yet Dick­ens still shapes our sense of cities and his Lon­don was chaotic and cruel, dis­eased and de­struc­tive. Hol­lis is an op­ti­mist. His book ex­plains how cities can be green, clean and creative – en­gines of eco­nomic growth and cre­ators of com­mu­nity. He makes a com­pelling case that they can pro­vide for all sorts of peo­ple. But to achieve this cities must con­sist of hu­man- scale com­mu­ni­ties, mi­cro­cosms within the mega­lopo­lis. Even when cities are over­whelmed by nat­u­ral disas­ter, the com­mu­ni­ties that cope are those best equipped with a sense of, well, com­mu­nity. This is not an es­pe­cially Aus­tralian book. For a start, none of our cities cuts it on the size scale and most of us still hang on to our quar­ter- acre block. But the mega- cities of Asia point the way to a creative fu­ture we can adopt, or not, if we choose. Hol­lis thinks the world will.

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