polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Witold Rybczynski on Lessons of Urban History

"The urban lessons from the last hundred years should not go unheeded. Small is not always beautiful, but piecemeal urbanism has a long and proven track record. Effective planning should recognize that while the market is not always right, an aggregation of individual decisions is generally closer to the mark than the plans appear on paper. Nor is striving to replicate the Bilbao Effect the solution to urban revitalization. History does not always have all the answers — new problems do sometimes require new solutions — but it behooves us to keep one eye on the past as we venture into the future. This is not about nostalgia or summoning an imagined past, but freedom from history is not freedom at all. The next city will include much that is new, but to succeed it cannot ignore what came before. Linking the past with the present, and seeing the old anew, has always been part of our improvised urban condition."

Witold Rybczynski, from "Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities," 2010

This is part of a collection of quotes related to cities. They don't necessarily reflect our views, just topics of interest. We welcome you to add others.

Credits: Photo of Oslo's city center by Rebecka Gordan.

+ share