Book Review – Urban Code: 100 Lessons for Understanding the City

Authors: Anne Mikoleit, Moritz Purckhauer (MIT Press, 2011)

This is a small book of a hundred or so pages that offers 100 bits of advice on how cities work. These are drawn from observations of the SoHo neighbourhood of New York and the activities of “shopping, dining, making pretzels, hailing taxis, waiting for traffic lights, meeting friends in coffee shops, entering subways, walking dogs in the park…”

The book is laid out with numbered points, a cute hand drawn graphic and a longer text validating the observation. The references are drawn from a small number of sources including Jane Jacobs, William Whyte, Alexander Christopher’s A Pattern Language, and Rem Koolhaas’ Delirious New York.

Many of the observations may seem obvious, a few seem rather odd, but it is a useful and insightful exercise to take the book out on a walk around the city and see how the authors have caught many of the near invisible interactions that make things tick.

It’s a simple, straight forward and enjoyable little book.


For more information, visit the MIT Press website.


John Atkin is a civic historian and author who organizes and conduct tours for groups and individuals. John has explored Vancouver like few others have and offers an interesting and offbeat insight to the city’s architecture, history and neighbourhoods. He has created, and conducts, a number of unique and popular walking tours throughout the City of Vancouver. You can visit his website to his tour schedule.