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Hardcover | Out of Print | 266 pp. | 6.9 x 8.4 in | June 1997 | ISBN: 9780262181808
Paperback | $34.00 Short | £27.95 | 266 pp. | 6.9 x 8.4 in | February 1999 | ISBN: 9780262681056
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Civic Realism


A civic place belongs to everyone and yet to nobody in particular. In Civic Realism, Peter G. Rowe looks at the shape and appearance of civic places, and at the social, political, and cultural circumstances that bring them into existence. The book is as much about the making and reshaping of civic places as it is about urban architecture per se. According to Rowe, the best civic place-making occurs across the divide between the state and civil society. By contrast, the alternatives are not very attractive. On the one side are state-sponsored edifices and places of authoritarian nature. On the other are the exclusive enclaves of corporate-dominated urban and suburban environments.

About the Author

Peter G. Rowe is Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he is Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design.


Civic Realism is a well-timed study which will benefit everyone involved in public life planners, designers, and users.”—Publishers Weekly


“An acute observer of architecture, people, and place, Peter Rowe offers a thoughtful, persuasive, and historically rich analysis of civic settings from Europe to the United States. Using both famous and obscure places as the basis for his discussion, he captures the elusive features that determine how places such as Piazza del Campo in Siena, Parc Citroën in Paris, and Joseph Plecnik’s market in Ljubljana transcend the limitations of the public-private dichotomy to become places of collective significance. Rowe’s Civic Realism challenges the way so-called public spaces are created by governments or market interests, insisting on the importance of political and social conditions that incorporate the disenfranchised and marginalized in our development of places for civil society.”
Diane Ghirardo, Professor of Architectural History, University of Southern California; editor of the Journal of Architectural Education; and author of Architecture After Modernism
“Peter Rowe’s Civic Realism successfully establishes a theoretical framework for the restricting of public spaces in large cities. The approach of Civic Realism is very useful in bridging the gap between traditional planning attitudes and more recent architectural actions. Rowe reviews the proposals of such designers as Plecnik, Wagner, Berlage, and Cadafalach in cities such as Ljubljana, Vienna, Amsterdam, and Barcelona at the beginning of this century, linking these and other projects in a very interesting discourse which reveals Rowe to be a refined observer and powerful narrator of the urban realm.”
Juan Busquets, Professor of Urbanism, School of Architecture, Barcelona
“Peter Rowe’s Civic Realism is a most important and timely book that proposes a critical examination of the historical relationship between civic place and urban architecture and suggests that this relationship needs to be restructured for a contemporary practice. The book’s relevance is heightened by Rowe’s concern for the difficult task of making these civic places, and for the necessary presence of an architecture willing to establish a dialogue with the urban realm, beyond aesthetic ideologies.”
Mario Gandelsonas, Professor of Architecture, School of Architecture, Princeton University