The interest is, instead, in the porosity of borders between its neighbourhoods, the contact between rich and poor, native and immigrant. His concrete proposals are, perhaps, less clear than his written analysis. But then again, he quotes the architect Robert Venturi, who called for a 'richness of meaning rather than clarity of meaning'. That is almost a book review in a single sentence.
Despite a few uncomfortable instances of 'outside the box', 'world class city' and 'tipping point' ... Building and Dwelling is pretty much jargon free, quite an achievement given the milieu the author evidently frequents. It is, too, far from clueless ... This ineptly edited but constantly stimulating book is a lateish-life appraisal of what Sennett has read, written and, most vitally, witnessed on the street or in the marketplace in the tradition of the sharp-eyed, sharp-nosed flâneur taking in every sensation ... This tireless self-publicist enchants slow learners with his precious gift of stating the blindingly obvious yet making it seem original. Sennett is unimpressed by his highly unoriginal aperçu that city quarters where 'creatives' settle will invariably become attractive to heavy money. 'Creatives' in this context is a grossly flattering epithet for brainstormtroop, multiplatform contortionists, important synergy gurus nuking an outmoded logo from the face of a polo shirt. What it does not signify are actual makers, writers and artists, who in London increasingly have the choice of being forced out to zones 5 or 6 or leaving the metropolis altogether, an ever more enticing prospect given the curious instance of the ville becoming inimical to the cité because swaths of it are underpopulated hence largely deserted, thus dangerous. There is more security in density than in isolated gated 'communities'.
Building and Dwelling is exhilarating and readable, but it is also demanding. Sennett seems to assume the reader knows what or whom he is citing and forces the reader to fill in transitions to keep track of the ways that his ideas weave together ... What Sennett does do — probably better than any other scholar could — is pull urban planners out of the daily grind of pragmatism. He offers the sort of intellectual provocation that can make inquisitive planners question just about everything they do and everything they think about cities. That’s not to say that Building and Dwelling will cause anyone to abandon their principles. Rather, it presents a time-out for the reassessment of principles and a reminder that city-building is, to invoke another duality, as much an intellectual endeavor as it is a pragmatic one.