Leo Hollis - Cities Are Good For You (3 stars)

Leo Hollis - Cities Are Good For You

A heavyweight but accessible account of the evolution of the city

Over 150 cities come under the academic microscope of Leo Hollis in his heavyweight account of the evolution of the city. The 400-page work is largely accessible however thanks to Hollis inserting narrative drive to each of the sections, which serve as connected, elongated essays on how cities work. Largely a polemic on why cities are successful, Hollis’ overarching argument is that mankind has benefitted from city living for centuries and that their evolution is intertwined with our own.

The writing is at times dense as Hollis talks urban theory, with the social evolution of the city one of the more interesting aspects of the book – from Thomas Hobbes' assertion that sovereignty is dominant to Le Corbusier’s notion of regulated metropolis, and scores of other.

Bookended by visits to Manhattan’s High Line Park (which has seen an abandoned railway line turned into a thriving green space), Hollis travels through time and across the globe, from the industrial revolution to modern slums in Mumbai and Rio – the existence of which surely challenge the title’s proclamation.

That said, whatever your views on city living, there’s much to be drawn from Cities are Good For You, and Hollis’ conclusion that controlled growth, sustainability and equality are key to the city’s future is convincing even if it doesn’t break new ground in urban theory itself.

Published by Bloomsbury on Fri 25 Apr.

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