The City Social: Why Urbanism Needs To Return To Observation

By Patrick McDonnell
Published: July 23, 2013
Good.is

Urbanism is about observation. Sociologist William “Holly” Whyte knew it and spent years recording and studying people and how they interacted with the city. Whyte’s quintessential 1980s documentary on New York’s plazas, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, is a standard of every Urban Planning Grad School experience, and its impact has yet to be replicated. Even today, whenever I come across a new plaza or public space, Holly Whyte’s nasally matter-of-fact narration and idiosyncratic phrases still ring in my ears, “People tend to sit where there are places to sit.”

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