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Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred [Paperback]

By Philip Bess (Author)
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Item description for Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred by Philip Bess...

"The city comes into existence . . . for the sake of the good life." So wrote Aristotle nearly 2,400 years ago, articulating an idea that prevailed throughout most of Western culture and the world until the environmental consequences of the Industrial Revolution called into question the goodness of traditional urban life. Urban history ever since--from England's early-nineteenth-century hygiene laws to mid-twentieth-century modernist architecture and planning to today's New Urbanism--has consisted of efforts to ameliorate the consequences of the industrial city by either embracing or challenging the idealization of nature that has followed it.
Architect Philip Bess's "Till We Have Built Jerusalem" puts forth fresh arguments for traditional architecture and urbanism, their relationship to human flourishing, and the kind of culture required to create and sustain traditional towns and city neighborhoods. Bess not only dissects the questionable intellectual assumptions of contemporary architecture, he also shows how the individualist ethos of modern societies finds physical expression in contemporary suburban sprawl, making traditional urbanism difficult to sustain. He concludes by considering the role of both the natural law tradition and communal religion in providing intellectual and spiritual depth to contemporary attempts to build new--and revive existing--traditional towns and cities, attempts that, at their best, help fulfill our natural human desires for order, beauty, and community.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   309
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6.75" Height: 8.5"
Weight:   1.18 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 20, 2006
Publisher   Intercollegiate Studies Institute
ISBN  193223697X  
ISBN13  9781932236972  

Availability  0 units.

More About Philip Bess

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Philip Bess is a Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, and the principal of Thursday Associates in Chicago, a research and consulting office committed to rethinking American architecture and urbanism. The author of two previous books, his essays have appeared in "Civitas, First Things, " the "ChristianCentury, " the "Classicist, " and the "Humanist Art Review, " among many other periodicals.

Philip Bess was born in 1952.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Architecture > Criticism
2Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Architecture > General
3Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Architecture > Urban & Land Use Planning
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Church & State

Reviews - What do customers think about Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred?

A Profound and Brilliant Book  Aug 8, 2008
This book makes the case for both traditional urbanism and new urbanism by laying the solid philosophical foundation that has been lacking up to now in writings in the field. Philip Bess takes the Aristotelian tradition running from Aristotle to the brilliant contemporary philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre and links this tradition to the practical necessities of building sustainable communities that create the optimal setting for human fulfillment. He establishes an objective and convincing basis to show how traditional urbanism and its "new urbanist" adaptations promote the common good in an age when that concept has almost vanished. Bess, in calm and measured tones, establishes a balanced and fulfilling world view as an alternative to a world currently fixated on private greed running amok in unfettered markets distorted by subsidies granted by governments commandeered by special interests. Bess not only shows us how to make places that we can love, he shows us that this art, almost lost in the modern world, is the way to an environmentally sustainable future that creates meaning and purpose in life. He reaches back to timeless traditions to show how we can transform our current world, complete with modern conveniences and cars, into a better place. This book is both practical and philosphical, and will appeal to thinking people, but not to those who just are looking for a "quick fix." This book, if read and understood by enough people, can transform the world.

Boring  Sep 14, 2007
Architecture is visual. In this book, the emphasis is on the abstract. As such, the subject and its presentation seem disconnected. Granted, the book has illustrations; however, they're generally tiny compared to what one normally sees in a presentation on a visual art. The text also contains numerous tiny footnotes throughout. These footnotes are distracting. The author makes numerous references other writers, coming across as someone who's collected a bunch of interesting quotes and wanted an excuse put them together in a book. It gives something of an intellectual stream of consciousness effect. I've read other books on architecture such as Tom Wolfe's From Our House to Bauhaus, Michael Rose's Ugly as Sin, and Lewis Mumford's Sticks and Stones, and got a lot of enjoyment and insight from them. I thought I'd really like this book but found it so boring and hard to read I gave up before finishing the first chapter.
A scholarly examination  Aug 4, 2007
Philip Bess (Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, University of Notre Dame School of Architecture) presents Till We Have Built Jerusalem, a scholarly examination of the relationship between traditional architecture, urbanism, and human flourishing, as well as the types of culture necessary to sustain traditional towns and city neighborhoods. Chapters analyze questionable intellectual assumptions of contemporary architecture, and reveals how the individualist philosophy of modern societies is physically expressed through suburban sprawl, to such an extent that it undercuts urbanism's ability to sustain itself. Till We Have Built Jerusalem concludes that the natural law tradition and communal religion can both provide the needed intellectual and spiritual depth to modern attempts to build new (and revive existing) towns and cities. Urban locales, at their best, help fulfill the human drive for order, beauty, and community, Bess argues, in this fascinating study of old versus new urbanism. Black-and-white and a few color illustrations add a visual touch to this persuasive manifesto of the common links between improving the human condition through better urban architecture and the bonds of shared religion.
trying to link New Urbanism and cultural conservatism   May 27, 2007
In this interesting but highly abstract collection of essays, Bess tries to teach cultural and religious conservatives (and indeed, religious people of all political leanings) about the virtues of traditional urbanism and its 21st-century heir, the New Urbanist movement. Bess argues that traditional neighborhoods where churches and other civic institutions are the highest buildings ennoble us by teaching us what we should cherish; by contrast, in 20th-century suburban sprawl churches look no different from Wal-Marts.

One of the best things about this book is its use of quotes. Some of my favorites:

*"To value anything simply because it occurs, is in fact to worship success, like Quislings or men of Vichy." (quoting C.S. Lewis).

*"If a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination. Once upon this downward path, you never know when to stop. Many a man has dated his own ruin from some murder or other that perhaps he thought little of at the time." (qutoing Thomas de Quincey)

*"the gratification in climbing consists of the conquering of one's own inert heaviness for the purpose of attaining a high goal- an experience inevitably endowed with symbolic connotations. Climbing is a heroic, liberating act; and height spontaneously symbolizes things of high value." (quoting psychologist Rudolf Arnheim to explain why height and beauty often go together)

*"It is not only insufferable arrogance to think that one can begin theologizing in sovereign disregard of history; it is also extremely uneconomical. It seems rather a waste of time to spend, say, five years working out a position, only to find that it has already been done by a Syrian monk in the fifth century. The very least that a knowledge of religious traditions has to offer is a catalogue of heresies for possible home use." (quoting Peter Berger)

*"The utter failure to create any meaningful pedestrian environment (that is, a rewarding public realm} defines the heart of Atlanta today. Every bad idea in the service of contemporary urban design [has come] together [in Atlanta] with a public attitude that can be summed up as the outside doesn't matter." (quoting James Howard Kunstler)

*And once from William Penn that he (wisely) criticizes: "The country life is to be preferred, for there we see the works of God, but in cities little else but the works of men." As Bess points out, human endeavor, like the natural world, is infused with divine presence.

One possible weakness: Because this is a collection of essays rather than a freestanding book, Bess doesn't engage defenders of the sprawl status quo as thoroughly as I would like.
a marvellous vision of how the world should build  Apr 15, 2007
If the following paraphrase is not too crude a summary of Philip Bess' brilliant synthesis in this book, the author believes that we all carry a kind of moral DNA within us which not only urges us not to murder but not to allow urban sprawl to devour our landscape and kill our authentic civic life. How ironic that we Americans hunger for the beauty of European small towns, for example, but don't realize that their "human scale" is related to ancient notions of what cities are for -- to make people good (i.e., excellent). This is not a political nor a polemical tract: Bess takes the reader into serious philosophical waters and his emphasis on virtues-based theories of human behavior mirrors the current work of leading philosophers and psychologists like Alasdair MacIntyre and Martin Seligman.

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