Awards Finalists

Touching the City

Thoughts on Urban Scale
Timothy Makower

Our sense of scale rarely receives the attention it warrants. In Touching the City: Thoughts on Urban Scale, Timothy Makower delves into scale with an analytical eye, after many years of translating experiential observations into major projects, such as King's Cross Masterplan and Liverpool One. Highlighting what the urban dweller can learn from historic cities and contemporary insertions, he zooms between the macro and the micro, from Detroit to Chandigarh, via New York, London, Paris, Rome and Doha. The importance of drawing and of the process of design are informed by examining the ‘dynamics and movement patterns of cities, the making of streets and skylines, and the formation of thresholds and facades’.

Divided into seven main chapters, the book explores scale through pairings with size, movement, edges, grain, form, skeletons and surface, and detail. It is extensively illustrated mostly with colour photos, and some diagrams and sketches. Photos generally illustrate points in the text and projects in which the author was directly involved. Though this kind of book can become esoteric, Makower keeps it taut, regularly drawing out key points and lessons learnt, referring to actual projects and places. For instance, Doha’s business district, both un-walkable and convoluted by car, is testament to the need to reiterate simple observations and learn from them. Touching the City explores how scale is manifested in cities at an intuitive and sensual level. Makower achieves a very readable and practical summary of urban design for a full range of practitioners and anyone with an interest in the design of cities. The book is a call for re-thinking what we mean by rational and rigorous design that is good for people, applied with a common sense of scale.

As we have increasing access to mapping information and imagery, we may forget that these are merely tools and markers, not experiential sequences in themselves. A perception of interconnection between scales and an awareness of beauty helps us maintain a sense of belonging, and interact with the city around us, so that we remain able to enjoy at various times the feelings of bigness and small-ness, of being at home and occasionally of ‘otherness’. This book helps us to do this by re-asserting the human as a scale datum.

URBAN DESIGN 137 Winter 2016 Publication Urban Design Group

As featured in URBAN DESIGN 137 Winter 2016

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Touching the City Publication Urban Design Group
Reviewed By
Marc Furnival