Ben Bartosik

May 13, 2024

Started reading Building & Dwelling by Richard Sennett and I'm honestly quite surprised I have not read any of his stuff before. It feels like a strange oversight in the trajectory of my thinking over the last decade or so. I was so immediately taken by him that I ordered the other two books in this trilogy. One of the more interesting connections is finding out that he was taught by Hannah Arendt, someone whose thinking has really inspired my own over the last couple years.

In this book Sennett is exploring the relationship between the built environment of cities (the 'ville', or buildings) and the character of life within them (the 'cite', or dwelling). He begins by posing the question, "should urbanism represent society as it is or seek to change it?"

He points to several hallmarks of modern cities emerged almost accidentally, as urban engineers were often trying to improve the quality of life of people within cities. One example he gives is smooth stone paving for streets was initially thought up in an attempt to make it easier to clean up horse droppings and hopefully by making them easier to clean, people would be less likely to dump their garbage all over them. This had the added effect of making streets cleaner and more useable as a social space.