THE WELL-TEMPERERD CITY: A five-pronged model to design and reshape cities

Note to Reader:

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

THE WELL-TEMPERED CITY: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations and Human Behavior Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life

Premise: We Can Learn from Our Ancestors

jonathan-rose_author_well-tempered-city_2016_120pJonathan Rose, a leading thought leader in the United States, champions the role of cities in addressing the environmental, economic, and social challenges of the 21st century.

In his book, he 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,” emphasizes Jonathan Rose.

Re-Shape Cities: A 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.

Guiding Philosophy: Design with Nature

“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,” observes Jonathan Rose.

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, 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,” concludes Rose.

To Learn More:

To learn more about the book, visit


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