on May 26, 2009
I really enjoyed reading "Concrete Reveries" -- to me the book felt like a series of landscape essays describing the evolution of spaces into places. Kingwell is a very philosophical writer and so we really get a the meta-knowledge of why cities are the way they are.
As Kingwell himself states, the book is not a blueprint for an ideal city, it is not a polemic of Le Corbusier, nor is it an extension of Jane Jacobs, it is an exploration into what makes a city a city, what makes New York New York, what makes Shanghai Shanghai.
Though I found the book highly readable, I think the philosophical density may appear daunting to the average reader -- Kingwell is heavy into Heidegger, Descartes, and Freud. I highly recommend "Concrete Reveries" for anyone studying urban planning or modern architecture.
on September 16, 2009
Kingwell concludes this work with the proposed solution of play. Like his other book "Opening Gambits," he manages to dance his way among the notions of overcoming, the troubles of trying always to be on top of things. Here, he is playing with layout, style, etc. His literary abilities only enhance his philosophical interests. Always begin a letter of complaint with a compliment. Sure, so what is this book lacking? You know, these days, the attraction to write something wonderful is always immediately met with the intimidation of imagining reading your own work at some future date, reflecting on how far you have come since then. Then, of course, wanting to be there now. But we forget that the future critic we imagine ourselves to be, is being imagined by the limitations of the present mind. In other words, the mistake is to want to catch up to a stationary ideal. The train is in motion, however, and the hope should be to hop on -- to get in on the conversation; that is, if it is a conversation you want to have. I have no substantial complaints and this is my complaint. Zizek comes up, Deleuze, the ghost of Rorty is here. So are the other great names I am unfamiliar with because I am not as well-read. I suppose the great thesis here is: "Hey philosophers, pay attention to the city as site of study." Other than that it reads like its layout -- as something a philosopher with a bunch of background reading behind them can enjoy picking up off the table next to where they rest their coffee. This is a book to savor, a book with the allure of transitory hardcover readability and the content of a musty canonical paperback. I called this review "post-mainstream" because Kingwell is talking up to us.
on May 16, 2008
I find Kingwell's work in Concrete Reveries to be very intriguing and insightful, especially since I also live in Toronto. While I am unfamiliar with some of the philosophical and artistic references that he uses, I really like how he incorporates many different disciplines and epistemologies in his blatantly post-disciplinary work. It seems that Kingwell is living through his work, and reveals a lot about himself in his writing, which makes for entertaining reading. While there are inherent dangers to this approach, Kingwell makes it work.
The book is also very easy to read despite being quite sophisticated. I'd recommend Kingwell's work to anyone interested in social change and moving towarda a more just society, including high school and undergraduate students with a good command of the English language.