Reviews

Discover reviews and original insights on
The Well-Tempered City.

Jonathan F.P. Rose is one of the nation’s leading thinkers on the integration of environmental, social, and economic solutions in urban development. He’s president of Jonathan Rose Cos., a development, urban planning, and investment firm that’s created a number of award-winning affordable housing communities, and he recently released his book, “The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life.” We recently caught up with Rose at AHF Live in Chicago to discuss the major challenges and opportunities facing affordable housing developers in 2017.

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We have assembled a list of 90 must-reads on cities from a diverse group of TNOC contributors—a nature of cities reader’s digest. The recommendations are as wide-ranging as the TNOC community, from many points of view and from around the world. They are a reflection of the breadth of thought that cities need.

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Unsustainable, inefficient, often violent, and marked by stark inequalities of wealth and opportunity, cities are increasingly vulnerable to social and economic crises, natural disasters, climate change, and other challenges of the coming era. Yet in The Well-Tempered City, Jonathan Rose remains passionately optimistic about our potential to rebuild innovative, resilient, integrated urban communities and restore balance and harmony.

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In his new book The Well-Tempered City, Jonathan F. P. Rose makes a creative effort to give some truly simple advice to mayors, urban leaders, and city-builders: work in harmony with nature.

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“In his new book The Well-Tempered City, Jonathan Rose puts forth some intriguing solutions that involve using the power of nature to harness the destruction that heavy rains and flooding can bring to our urban areas. His provocative book is a must-read for politicians, urban planners, business leaders and anyone else who’s worried about the future of our cities.”

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“Spoiler alert: I love epic stories with universal meaning for varied audiences around the world. In sum, that is why I think Jonathan F.P. Rose‘s new book will become a must-read classic. And, if 400-pagers are not your style, it’s at worst a well-written, must-browse wonder, with relevant lessons for us all.”

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“Roadmaps are sometimes hard to read. But you can be sure that they’re always much harder to create. I kept that thought in mind during my enjoyable read through a new and important book, “The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life”, by Jonathan F. P. Rose. It does a superb job for city-focused readers like me.”

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“Two new books tug Jacobs’s ideas into the 21st century — and explore what she missed — as her 1960s-era battles to keep highways and wrecking balls out of cities have been replaced by fears of the gentrification and inequality settling in. In “Eyes on the Street,” Robert Kanigel has written the definitive Jacobs biography, illuminating how her ideas rankled, spread and then garnered her such devotion. In “The Well-Tempered City,” developer Jonathan F.P. Rose loyally cites Jacobs but considers how cities must evolve in an interconnected and troubling world.”

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“The book was an easy and smooth read, and opens with a history of human civilization. As humans improved their EROI (energy return on investment), we no longer needed to focus all of our energy on hunting and gathering. The higher our EROI, the more idle time we had to pursue other tasks, so the more layers of complexity we added to society. When our EROI declined, these layers unraveled. Examples were given over and over again throughout the book. At some point, you begin to realize that all of the economic problems we face today aren’t unique. For example, during periods of decline, virtually all societies have a tendency to tighten their control, which only hastens their decline.”

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“In his book The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life, developer Jonathan Rose examines the challenges facing cities around the globe and examines the history of the world’s most successful cities and fallen empires in an effort to prepare for the future. “Growth in cities is primarily coming from people moving from rural areas. Cities are cauldrons of opportunity that are paired with opportunity declining in rural areas,” says Rose, a New York-based developer who has done a number of projects in Denver.”

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“This provocative, important, and majestically composed book about the future of cities should be essential reading for our times. An urban planner, environmentalist, and musician, Rose takes us on a rollicking, centuries-long journey through the history of cities, never forgetting to marvel at their resilience and human core. What does Bach tell us about the complexity and organization of our urban environments? What is the ‘metabolism of the city’? By the time I had finished Rose’s book, I began to see the city and the world around me in an entirely new light. I could not put this book down.”

“Rose’s non-stop tour of the city—an in depth account of its history, theory, and practice—is exhilarating and complete, wherein compassion, Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, and contemporary scientific thinking finally come to rest together. This is a hugely satisfying poem—rich in history, thought and deeply felt throughout.”

“Huge in ambition, grand in scope, dazzling in accomplishment. You will never look at your city, yourself or your neighbors the same way again.”

“From the very first pages of this brilliant book, I was hooked. The transformative knowledge this book conveys has enabled be to know what I didn’t think was even possible to know. Weaving a captivating in-depth story about the history of city life, exploring the various and intriguing ways our human nature works with–or against–nature, and addressing the pressing needs of our fragile planet, Jonathan Rose provides us with a unique and practical guide to where we’ve been and where we need to go to make our global, urban-dominated home a more resilient and compassionate place. This magnificent book, based deeply on extensive science we rarely hear about, is both informative and profoundly creative in illuminating novel and achievable applications that can create positive changes in our collective lives. Bravo!”

“Someone once said that the ideal city is ‘a garden for growing better people.’ Few people alive today have synthesized a vision of what that ideal city would look…how it would work…with more wisdom and inspired insight than Jonathan Rose. And the cold truth is that the survival of any civilization we’d actually want our children to live in hinges on evolving toward his vision.”

“Gathering a lifetime of learning, discovery, and understanding, Jonathan Rose has written an astonishing book: a treasure trove of knowledge about how our urban lives have evolved, interwoven with a compellingly pragmatic case for what they can be in the future. The Well-Tempered City is essential and exciting reading.”

The Well-Tempered City is a rich tapestry of the increasingly complex urbanized world. Rose’s depiction of the city as a living metabolism—one requiring clean calories and water, green space and buildings, happiness and harmony achieved though connectivity, community and compassion—resonates like the Bach fugues he alludes to.”

“Cities are the social body of mankind, and herein is the finest portrait of that body produced in decades. Rose doesn’t just advocate abstract principles, he tells fascinating stories that engage and reveal the true potential of cities. He is a generalist in the grand tradition of Jacobs, seeing cities through the prism of history, ecology, cognitive science, geology, anthropology, climate science, technology and biology… this book is proof that such a perspective is the only way to understand urbanism.”

“For millennia cities have been cauldrons of progress, innovation, and growth. Jonathan Rose draws on an incredible range of research to give a new, deeply insightful, and sweeping account of why and how cities develop. Many of humankind’s greatest challenges and opportunities lie in cities and The Well-Tempered City shows us the way to a bright urban future.”

The Well-Tempered City is a joyous journey spanning urbanism from ancient times to the present day, with wisdom for the future. A true Renaissance thinker, Rose’s brilliant interdisciplinary observations are tempered by years of hands-on knowledge and lucidly composed into a crescendo of remarkable insights uniting us in common purpose.”

“Only Jonathan Rose — urbanist, activist, and humanist that he is — could write a book that explains with such clarity and depth how our cities must evolve to serve their citizens. The Well-Tempered City offers a thorough education in how to move from simply maximizing the economic output of cities to improving the well-being of all urban residents.”

The Well-Tempered City traverses the span of human settlements, from ancient, sacred cities that were temple complexes to modern, sensate, interconnected metropoles that mimic living systems in function and design. As the extraordinary migration to urban environments continues unabated, the question Jonathan Rose poses is whether we build squalor by default or environments that address, heal, and prevent poverty, ill-health and civic discord by intention. This is a tall order but it is not speculative. Jonathan is a pre-eminent developer of the most imaginative urban housing in the United States. His scholarship extends from recent discoveries in neuroscience and human behavior to the skillful and transformative practices implemented in his own work. The pragmatic and the visionary rarely integrate this harmoniously into the re-imagination of what a city is and could be.”

“Jonathan Rose’s powerful new book, The Well-Tempered City, reveals a fresh understanding of inequality, urbanization, housing and public health. Rose weaves rigorous cognitive neuroscience research with powerful, authentic stories of people who often live at the margins of society. The book introduces a new human development paradigm—the cognitive ecology of well-being—and demonstrates how this new way of thinking offers solutions that help low-income families and communities recover and repair their lives. This book should be mandatory reading for anyone committed to the idea of successful and inclusive cities.”

“The purpose of cities extends beyond their tallest buildings, and their possibilities are more inspiring than the sum of their institutions and landmarks. The Well-Tempered City shows what is possible ecologically and economically when a city is aligned with its people and its environment, and it offers a vivid roadmap not merely to survive, but to thrive in a rapidly urbanizing world.”

“Once in every great while, a new book arrives that really addresses the things that are on my mind. Rose’s The Well-Tempered City has given me an elegant and powerful framework to look at the things that interest me the most these days: contemporary culture, music and compassion.
It is essential reading for everyone who lives in cities and everyone who dreams of repairing the world.”

“Jonathan Rose shares his brilliant vision in this fascinating look at cities past and present. The Well-Tempered City offers a plan for urban — and ecological and social — thriving into the future. Anyone who lives in a city or cares about them will find this a rewarding read.”

“A comprehensive primer for how to contemplate urban spaces as they evolve for the future.”

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