Seeing the Better City:
How to Explore, Observe and Improve Urban Space
“If we want to create the places of our dreams, we need to observe our cities more clearly. Seeing the Better City is both a thoughtful guide and an enticement to take up this challenge.”
Charles Montgomery, Author of Happy City
“We experience cities through what we see. Not since the legendary Kevin Lynch has an author opened our eyes to the power of observing urban space. This book masterfully illustrates how to understand and capture moments in time, see present-day patterns and layers of history, and gain visual insights into the urban space that shapes our daily lives. Chuck’s images and words will truly inspire you.”
Mitchell Silver, NYC Parks Commissioner and former president of the American Planning Association
“With Seeing the Better City, Chuck Wolfe accomplishes what few have tried—to actually bridge multiple disciplines in order to help people effectively see, understand, and improve urban spaces. He provides us with an invaluable, accessible roadmap for a place-led future.”
Ethan Kent, Senior Vice President, Project for Public Spaces, NYC
“We need to be incessant students of place. In Seeing the Better City, Chuck gives us this mandate as well as the tools to succeed in the endeavor. This book is a valuable contribution to the place conversation by championing ‘place ethnography’ for the betterment of cities and their people.”
Dr. Katherine Loflin, “The City Doctor”
Background and Resources
Seeing the Better City (now available from Island Press) brings our attention back to the real world right in front of us, focusing it once more on the sights, sounds, and experiences of place in order to craft policies, plans, and regulations to shape better urban environments.
Through clear prose and vibrant photographs, Charles R. Wolfe shows how to catalog the influences of urban form, public transportation, and other basic city elements. He then shares insights into how to use recorded observations to contribute to better planning and design decisions.
For Wolfe’s earlier work, see Urbanism Without Effort (Island Press, 2013).
See Wolfe’s recent summary of the book in The Huffington Post, here.
The Seeing the Better City Press Kit and Tip Sheet are now available from Island Press, here.
Events and Media
Read Chuck Wolfe’s February 19, 2017 article in Huffington Post, “How to Use Urban Diaries in Times of City Change,” here.
Read Jessica Leigh Hester’s February 10, 2017 piece in CityLab about Seeing the Better City, observation, and urban diaries, here.
Listen to Bill Radke interview Chuck Wolfe on KUOW/The Record on February 9, 2017 about “How Can We See a Better Seattle,” here.
Read Mónica Guzmán’s February 8, 2017 piece in The Evergrey about the potential of the urban diary tool for Seattle, and traps to avoid, here, as well as her February 15 follow-up on elicited urban diary examples, here.
Read Kaid Benfield’s February 6, 2017 Huffington Post review of Seeing the Better City, here.
Key events include:
- 25th Congress for the New Urbanism, Seattle, “Seeing the Better City, Making a Better Place,” Seattle Art Museum, 4:15 p.m. May 5, 2017
- Security and Sustainability Forum/Island Press Webinar/Panel Discussion, “Seeing the Better City”, 10:15 a.m. PST March 2, 2017
- ULI Northwest “Seeing the Better City” Presentation and Live Interview at MG2 Architecture in Seattle, with Marc Stiles, Puget Sound Business Journal, 4:00 p.m. February 28, 2017
- Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, “Seeing the Better City: Seattle Edition,” 7:00 p.m. February 13, 2017
- Town Hall Seattle, Presentation, 7:30 p.m. February 9, 2017
- Kirkland City Hall, King County Sustainable Cities Roundtable, “Winter Walk With Wolfe,” Presentation and Walk, Noon, February 9, 2017
- King County Bar Association Environmental & Land Use Section Presentation, 4:15 p.m. January 19, 2017
- Photo Expo and Book Prequel, Cupcake Royale, Madrona (Seattle), 4:00 p.m., December 3, 2016, with photos on display December 1-31.
Listen to, and read about, two Seeing the Better City “prequel” events, the October 3, 2016 Urbanism Speakeasy podcast, here, and the October 23, 2016 Futurewise “walkshop” and book talk in Spokane, Washington, here.
To learn more, see the book trailer, embedded below. The trailer provides a book overview, explains key themes, and highlights multiple photographs featured in Seeing the Better City.
See the recently released book preview, embedded below.