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The Seduction of Place: The City in the Twenty-First Century.

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Joseph Rykwert.Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2000. 283pp. £20

I am somewhat confused by this book, writes Joe Holyoak . Joseph Rykwert is a scholar of immense learning and perception, and many of us admire his earlier works on architecture and towns. In this book, he lays out his encyclopedic knowledge of the history of town-making impressively before us. We learn of Thomas Jefferson's distrust of the city and his proposal that America's goods be manufactured in Europe, keeping America rural; Soria y Mata's Linear City, running from Madrid to St Petersburg; Charles Fourier's utopian phalansteries; the Turgot map; the Nolli map (unfortunately mangled by the publishers); and many other things.

But, as I read chapter after chapter packed with fascinating historical documentation, I asked myself 'Where is all this getting us?' It is difficult to locate a big argument about the modern city which all this forest of detail is supporting. As for the subtitle, consideration of the twenty-first century city only emerges briefly in the final few pages.

Rykwert is concerned primarily with the physical form of cities: the city as it presents itself to our senses. Hence, presumably, the book's odd title, which is nowhere explained.This is fair enough, except that he justifies it by claiming that the physical fabric of the city is under-documented in books. One wonders what he has been reading.

He does, however, introduce a provoking argument about form and space.

Being interested in built form, he feels it necessary to deny the importance of space, and the role of the city in, as Lefebvre puts it, the production of space.

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