Book Review │Charleston Fancy by Witold Rybczynski

When I was an undergraduate at Rutgers University studying art history, one of my all time favorite books that I continually went back to and even now, will pick up from time to time were any of Peter Mayle’s Provence series. What I loved so much about them was that I was learning about life in Provence as an ex-pat through the life of someone who clearly loved Provence. I was learning through someone else’s passion and in so many ways that is the best way to learn because they will never cease to be an endless treasure trove of information about their subject.

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Charleston, South Carolina

I felt the same concept of learning through someone else’s passion with Witold Rybczynski’s Charleston Fancy. Instead of Provence, we are emersed in the world of Charleston, South Carolina, and its beautiful architecture. Charleston is a town with roots that go back to a time before the 1700’s when it was first occupied by British colonists who had landed on the Carolina coast. The city grew and has attracted varieties of people to its warm climate and abundance of different architecture that is notable throughout the town.

Rybczynski opens the world of Charleston, South Carolina up to his readers as we are informed about the various types of architecture that are present and the different types of people and characters we meet along the way. The novel brings Charleston to life through small vignettes and glimpses of Rybczynski’s cast of characters and homeowners as we are further exposed to the varied world of Charleston and its architecture.

Southern Architecture

When I think of Charleston, my mind immediately wonders off to verandas, wicker chairs and huge porches that are all sprinkled along tree-lined streets with brick sidewalks and beautiful masonry. While some parts of the south are like this, Rybczynski focuses his book on the surprises that Charleston has to bring us. From the small houses that hide beautiful courtyard verandas to Byzantine and Moorish beauties that are tucked away– he takes us on a ride through the surprises and beauty that is the prevailing sense of creativity that abounds throughout Charleston’s homes and architecture. It is detailed and colorful in his approach to bringing the world of Charleston, South Carolina for those of us who aren’t familiar.

Book Information

Charleston Fancy: Little Houses and Big Dreams in the Holy City by Witold Rybczynski will be released on May 28, 2019, from Yale University Press with ISBN 9780300229073. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design – A Review

biophilicThe world unto itself is a work of art, with its natural beauty and majestic landscapes. Too often, modern society tends to forget the world we live in, failing to preserve the beauty that we were given from the beginning. Biophilic Cities explores the importance of incorporating wilderness and nature in our urban lives. City living makes it easy for us to forget what nature is like, everything from its beauty to its power to heal even the most jaded of city landscapes.

About Biophilic Cities

In his book, Timothy Beatley argues for the greening of future cities, stating that renewable energy and better public transit are just one part of what a green city is. More importantly, urban planning needs to begin to focus around coexisting with the natural world instead of constantly impeding on it. A biophilic city, argues Beatley, plans in conjunction with nature. It incorporates the natural world into its buildings and planning.

It is imperative that as we move towards the future, we begin to take into consideration the importance of doing so because nature is an important part of sustainable living and thus, overall existence. What is most notable about Beatley’s ideals for a future planned city, is that it not only incorporates the nature that was already there in the first place, but it also strives to replenish and revive what has already been lost and degraded by poor planning in the past.

Including Nature in Urban Design

Timothy Beatley offers many solutions to how urban planners can incorporate nature into urban development. Beatley includes essays and beautiful photographs of roof-top gardens, green walk-ways, living walls and sidewalk gardens. His ideas for what a city can be, does not make it difficult to put these new ideas into place. Rather, his ideas for the greening of urban living are about coexistence and even a beautification of drab urban settings.

Overall, Biophilic Cities presents interesting ideas on what future cities could strive to become. The essays though interesting, can be a bit dry in places. However, Beatley does make up for that by including beautiful nature and urban photography which often enhance his ideas on what a city can be and what the issues with past urban planning have caused. It will be interesting to see how many of Beatley’s solutions begin to redefine what we have known as the urban landscape.

Biophilic Cities by Timothy Beatly is available for purchase with ISBN 1597267155. It was originally published on October 25, 2010 through Island Press.