The Language of Towns and Cities:
A Visual Dictionary
by Dhiru Thadani
Unique in format and expansive in scope, The Language of Towns and Cities surveys the world of urban design and planning with deep admiration and meticulousness. Architect and town planner Dhiru A. Thadani, and more than fifty expert contributors, bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to this blend of encyclopedia, illustrated design manual, and stunning photo essay collection.
More than ever before, the quality of urban places is of critical importance to the world’s population. Over half of humanity resides in urban areas, and growth is continually increasing. Poor urban design and planning is bringing about many negative impacts, from inequitable slum conditions to social isolation to the crushing burden of excessive roadways and traffic. This book empowers citizens with the knowledge of city planning
and urban design to demand a more humane built environment for all.
Unlike the medical and legal professions, architecture and planning do not possess a common language to discuss urbanism. Words have been and continue to be misused to communicate ideas, elements, and visions of cities. The Language of Towns and Cities addresses this by visually defining terms and ideas related to the built environment, illustrating their use, application, and best practices.
The book is organized alphabetically, with each word, name, or concept described in text and images. Key personalities in the history and evolution of urban place-making are introduced in concise biographical portraits. Plans and profiles of the greatest examples of town and city design span the full sweep of history, from antiquity to the present day.
With over 500 definitions, articles, case studies, biographies, and essays, plus thousands of exceptionally informative diagrams and sumptuous photographs, the book is a visual feast for all urbanists, from novice to expert.
Thadani’s compendium is the equivalent of the Britannica and Webster’s, an encyclodictionary for anyone concerned with the future of the built environment
A useful reference for students of urbanism at all levels, this book proves that urban design indeed is a discipline, with its own history, body of knowledge, shared language, and the power to make the built environment beautiful.
Dhiru Thadani, one of our profession’s most thoughtful and deeply committed teacher-practitioners, realized some time ago that our cultures’ traditional language of architecture and urbanism had been all but lost
in the building boom that followed World War II. That the “Second America” we hurriedly planned, designed, and built for ourselves was not only not practical, efficient or just, but hope-sappingly ugly; a “Second Class America” in which both town and country had been simultaneously obliterated. The placeless road to the airport had become a national setting. Modernist urbanism had been a failure at almost every level— and become arguably the West’s most toxic export.
In response to this wreckage, Thadani decided as a starter to revisit the language of towns and cities by giving us a “visual dictionary” that would help reacquaint both laymen and practitioners with rational and time-tested ways of making cities and countrysides, and relearn how to “speak” intelligibly about the central responsibility of our profession. His guidebook is a timely and engaging lesson from an important teacher.
Dhiru Thadani is an heir to the legacies of Camillo Sitte and Colin Rowe. Sprinkled through this lexicon of urban terms are some of the most lucid didactic representations of urban space that tradition has produced. His juxtaposition of pictorial images and abstract representation will deepen the understanding that anyone, professional or layperson, has of the man made world.