An exploration of the life of William H. Whyte, an iconoclastic writer and urban activist whose ideas reshaped many of the places we know and love today—from New York's bustling Bryant Park to preserved forests and farmlands around the country.
Mr. Rein treats Whyte as a hero, for good reasons. He was an independent thinker, an astute observer, and an admirable champion of bottom-up creativity and urban dynamism. He was wise about how cities work. But he had his own prejudices, notably against cars and the 'sprawl' they enabled. Mr. Rein does not question the shortcomings of an urbanism that condemns such engines of economic and cultural creativity as Los Angeles, Atlanta and Silicon Valley. Why do these places work, if crowded sidewalks and obvious city centers are essential to urban vitality? And then there are the Nimbys, whom Whyte’s work empowered ... Whyte didn’t intend to choke off new housing in the nation’s most productive regions or to paralyze the general ability to build. But those conditions are as much his legacy as the resurgence of old downtowns or the plentiful seating in Bryant Park—at least until someone new comes along and 'blows the lid off everything.'
Journalist Rein’s comprehensive biography of this icon of the planning and preservation movement focuses on Whyte’s vision and legacy, offering an accessible and worthy source of inspiration for contemporary and future land-use challenges.
Journalist Rein debuts with an intriguing intellectual biography ... Rein foregrounds Whyte’s own writing and analyses, which were remarkably prescient. The result is a welcome tribute to a visionary thinker.