THE WELL-TEMPERED CITY: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations and Human Behavior Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life –written by Jonathan Rose, a leading thinker

Note to Reader:

jonathan-rose_author_well-tempered-city_2016_120pRecognized for creating communities that literally heal both residents and neighborhoods, Jonathan Rose is one of the leading thinkers in the United States on the integration of environmental, social, and economic solutions to urban development issues facing the country today.

In The Well-Tempered City, published in September 2016, he distills a lifetime of interdisciplinary research and firsthand experience into a five-pronged model for how to design and reshape our cities with the goal of equalizing their landscape of opportunity.

philip-glass_120p“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,” wrote Phillip Glass, one of the most influential music makers of the 20th century, in a book review.

Five-pronged model to design and reshape our cities

In the vein of Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City, Jonathan F. P. Rose—a visionary in urban development and renewal—champions the role of cities in addressing the environmental, economic, and social challenges of the 21st century.

The urban development book begins by exploring the evolution of cities, from the first emergence of human culture around 50,000 B.C., identifying the key characteristics that were necessary for the evolution of humans and the places that they built to give rise to urban life. The conditions that were necessary for cities to emerge so long ago are also necessary for cities to thrive today.

Design with Nature

“Cities are birthplaces of civilization; centers of culture, trade, and progress; cauldrons of opportunity—and the home of 80 percent of the world’s population by 2080,” says Jonathan Rose.

“As the 21st century progresses, metropolitan areas will bear the brunt of global megatrends such as climate change, natural resource depletion, population growth, income inequality, mass migrations, education and health disparities, among many others.”

“Drawing from the musical concept of “temperament” as a way to achieve harmony, Rose argues that well-tempered cities can be infused with systems that bend the arc of their development toward equality, resilience, adaptability, well-being, and the ever-unfolding harmony between civilization and nature.

These goals may never be fully achieved, he says, but our cities will be richer and happier if we aspire to them, and if we infuse our every plan and constructive step of city development with this intention.

In his book, Rose writes about natural infrastructure. This means using nature instead of the brute force of steel and concrete to mitigate flooding and harmful runoff.


Five-Pronged Model

There are five characteristics that cities and metropolitan regions can develop, according to Rose. The five steps inspired by an amazing musical achievement, The Well-Tempered Clavier, which Johann Sebastian Bach wrote in two sections, or books, in 1722 and 1742

The first characteristic is coherence—moving from siloed strategies to integrated ones.

The second characteristic is circularity—moving from linear systems to connected ones.

The third characteristic is resilience—integrating climate resilience and cognitive resilience.

The fourth characteristic is community—recent science shows that the neighborhoods in which we live have an outsized effect on the quality of our lives, and the future of our children.

The fifth characteristic is compassion—when individuals try to maximize their own benefits, systems collapse.

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