"The city comes into existance... 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 environmental consequences of the Industrial Revolution called into question the goodness of traditional urban life. Urban history ever since has consisted largely of efforts to ameliorate 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 frsh 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 the communal religion in providing intellectual and spiritual depth to contemporary attempts to build new - revive existing - traditional towns and cities, attempts tha, at their best, help fulfill our natural human desires for order, beauty, and community.
Philip Bess is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture. He is also the principal of Thursday Associates in Chicago, a firm committed to rethinking American architecture and urbanism. The author of two previous books, his essays have appeared in Civitas, First Things, the Christian Century, and Classicist, and the Humanist Art Review, among many other periodicals.