Philip Bess: Cities shaped by love

In an essay with the provocative title, “Bring me my arrows of desire: cities shaped by love,” Gayle Doornbos writes a review of Philip Bess’s book, “Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred.”

For those who are unaware, Bess is a Notre Dame architecture professor who spoke to a Fort Wayne audience about urban design and sustainable development last month.

Doornbos begins her essay with dreams: Where do you dream of living?

Here are excerpts:

Bess’s gambit challenges us to reevaluate the current state of our cities, how we think about urbanism and the suburbs, and our visions of the good life. For him, a vision of the good life is paramount. It is not enough to merely have good design. Philip Bess argues that good city-building cannot be reduced to design. Good design aids flourishing and can reflect flourishing, but it cannot by itself create sense of community, a neighbourhood, or even a good city. …

… Bess’s work calls us to restore Christian thought about the city in a time when Christians have appropriately fought for justice in cities but neglected to develop sophisticated frameworks about the specific structure, design, policy, and theology that constitutes a good city. Finally, we must recapture the old Christian idea that architecture shapes the fabric of a city — it is not inconsequential to faith or to building community and place — belonging and identity in a broken world. Community, belonging, and cities must aspire to reflect this vision of good city life. “Our greatest cities,” writes Bess, “are products of love. Cities should be shaped and driven by the dream of a world made new.”

Read the essay here.

Also, Books & Culture magazine reviews his book here. Below is an excerpt:

Designs for a good urban experience, Bess explains, would take into consideration the ecological, economic, moral, and formal well-being of a neighborhood. Whether on the outskirts of a city or in the urban core, each neighborhood would enjoy “a walkable and mixed-use human environment wherein many if not most of the necessities and activities of daily human life are within a five- to ten-minute walk for persons of all ages and economic classes.” Such neighborhoods would embody the best social and aesthetic features of historic urban life, and to bring this vision to fruition would be to occasion human flourishing. Good urban planning is good theology.

Read the Books & Culture review here.

Photo courtesy of calm a llama down

Bonhoeffer and responsibility

lifetogetherI’m getting inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s “Life Together,” and I have yet to get beyond the introduction.

Here are two quotes from the book’s intro that ring true:

“The sin of respectable people reveals itself in flight from responsibility.” — Bonhoeffer’s friend Eberhard Bethge

“For him Christianity could never be merely intellectual theory, doctrine divorced from life, or mystical emotion, but always it must be responsible, obedient action, the discipleship of Christ in every situation of concrete everyday life, personal and private.” — “Life Together” translator John W. Doberstein

41 books to read in 2008

My first New Year’s resolution is:

Stop buying books.

I have enough books on church, culture, cities and community on my shelves to last me at least through December. And they all came highly recommended by those who have a love for the city. Take a look:

Here’s what I’ve read in 2007 or earlier but hope to restudy in 2008:

And beyond actually reading them and understanding them, I intend on commenting on them here at The Good City. Good grief!

I’ve just begun Life Together because I felt I needed some more spiritual sustenance. But do you have any suggestions on what I should pick up next? Any books on my bookshelf that you’ve already read and would recommend?

photo by austinevan on Flickr