The Greenberg Revolution: City Building in the 21st Century

Walking Home: The Life and Lessons of a City Builder

? 2011: Ken Greenberg

Ken Greenberg has worked in an enviable number of cities around the world – Amsterdam, New York, St. Paul, Montreal, Boston, San Juan, Toronto … we could keep going – and in his new book Walking Home he brings this experience and knowledge to a discussion of city building. Eschewing the negative outlook of many urban writings, Greenberg’s book is filled with positive, constructive dialogue about how we can improve the conditions in our cities, from building better public spaces, to increasing density in smart and sensitive ways, to connecting cities back to their waterfronts.

For Greenberg, city building is best done incrementally, inserting density and contemporary buildings into the existing fabric of the city, building upon what is already there as opposed to starting with a blank canvas. In this way we can create more dynamic and organic spaces, allowing our cities to evolve over time. He calls this an open-platform kind of city building; the role of the urban designer is to create flexible spaces that can adapted to different uses over time.

For Toronto, this book is both timely and important. It should be a wake-up call to those at City Hall: a reminder that city building takes work, courage and collaboration, but that the potential for vibrant places to live is worth it.

Walking Home enjoyed its official launch on Wednesday 25 May, and Swipe Design was thrilled to be partnering with 401 Richmond’s Urbanspace Gallery to perform the honours. Oh yes, and Greenberg was wielding his authorly pen on the night. (2011: Random House Canada; ISBN 9780307358141)


Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg: Twenty Years of Breaking Ground

Grounded: The Work of Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg

? 2010: Julian Smith, Ken Greenberg, Bruce Kuwabara, Doug Paterson, Jacqueline Hucker, Eduard Koegel & Kelty McKinnon; forward by Michael Van Valkenburgh

With a book called Grounded, it’s hardly surprising that the founding partners of Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg are so, well, down to earth. We had the pleasure of meeting the Smallenberg and Farevaag components of the PFS team at a recent Toronto gathering, celebrating the launch of the Vancouver firm’s impressive monograph.

Showcasing PFS’s planning, urban design and landscape architecture works, Grounded is also an intriguing walk through time and place, featuring seven commissioned essays by some of today’s most influential architects, planners and historians. Jacqueline Hucker discusses commemorative architecture, including the Canadian memorial in Vimy Ridge, France, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa; Bruce Kuwabara explores landscape architecture’s civic role; and Ken Greenberg, Douglas Paterson, Julian Smith, Eduard Koegel and Kelty McKinnon offer a range of PFS-oriented perspectives.

All of this is wrapped up in the lush, clean design of Argentinian-born Canadian Pablo Mandel. Oh, and that cover? It may look like a Legoland paradise, but it’s all real. Check it out next time you’re hovering over the Washington Mutual Centre’s Roof Garden in Seattle. (2010: Blue Imprint; ISBN 9781897476208)