John's Reviews > The City, Seen as a Garden of Ideas

The City, Seen as a Garden of Ideas by Peter  Cook
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's review
Sep 07, 2014

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, re-reading
Read in September, 2014

This book is an opaque, diffuse, sophisticated, rich, wry, and promethean profusion of thick phenomenological experiences of European and American cities, rewritten and redrawn. It is a canonical book for enjoying what I call "night-reading", a vacation from the logic and rationality of the day, but instead an invitation to arcane beauty and free-form creativity, adult wonder and unexplained personal significances: profound but not so self-serious.

Peter Cook was a founding member of the legendary speculative architecture collective, Archigram, which produced walking cities, instant cities inflated and brought in balloons, plug-in cities under the continual arrangement of cranes, and in general a revision of what the city could be if it were dynamic and organic; in its way, a futurism. The question is, clearly these proposals are that of the young, suitable for those in their twenties. What this book is really about is how, with courage, age leads one to grow artistically, tempering, refining, and developing without destroying or abandoning one's pursuit.

What happens is that that these visions become more oblique, turning less to mechanism and dynamics and more to gardens and curated growth, less to parties and more to visits, less from diagrams and more to painterly compositions that have an unclear correspondence with anything built so much as they better suggest a soft cubism, more suited to greenery and water: ponds, rivers, waterfalls, and pools; etched and delimited by rock formations, paths, sheds, and windows to who knows where. It remains the visual equivalent of the atmospheric and worldly "Orbus Terrarum".

Here is what this book says about aging: don't worry about having too much of a plan; have great experiences, keep playing and keep creating. Your craft may no longer have the boldness of youth but it will have the profuse erudition of your years.


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