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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > June 2019 > Urban malaise

Urban malaise

Joe Berridge’s new book strikes an optimistic tone but ignores key realities about how postmodern cities function

Perfect City: An Urban Fixer’s Global Search for Magic in the Modern Metropolis

Joe Berridge Sutherland House

JOE BERRIDGE IS A STORIED urban planner and self-identified “city builderwith a multinational client list and a thick personal Rolodex. Berridge’s new book, part of the inaugural list for Toronto-based non-fiction publisher Sutherland House, is a breathlessly optimistic catalogue of urban life, glittering with dropped names. But the slim volume provides little in the way of analysis or context for its Pollyanna prono uncements.

Perfect City is filled with outings and interviews with named and unnamed planners, architects, andresidents. There are charming flaneur vignettes about immigrant neighbour- hoods, bursting withexotic food and cultural tableaux. However, despite its efforts at charm, Perfect City misses the mark when it comes to explaining why some cities, like Toronto, fall short of perfection. As a result, Berridge misses an opportunity to point the way to change, growth, and lasting, useful urban innovation that places the well-being and longevity of cities and their residents before market concerns. More distressingly, Berridge’s enthusiasm for theoretically innovative city-building initiatives, like the SidewalkToronto project, seems basedin a personal affection for their charismatic leaders, rather than a grounded analysis of the projects’ proposals and potential.

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