The Living City: Integrating Self, Nature and the Built Environment
by Daniel Schwab
The Living City is now being prepared for publication by Culicidae press and should be available for purchase in 2012!
This book is the first ecopsychology of the traditional city ever written. It suggests that it is possible to see the city as a living thing, a part of nature, in which the spiritual human being plays a central role in its evolution and self-maintenance. I draw on research in environmental and ecopsychology, urban design, systems science and spirituality to present a theory of how the city can come to life through deep human engagement to it and to the natural world.
You can download draft chapters of The Living City here:

Here are the complete contents of the book:

1. Where We Come From
1.1 Cutting Through Sustainability Reductionism: Toward a Dynamic Theory of
Sustaining. Critiques the mechanistic and interior-denying definitions of sustainability to suggest that the human self is intimately related to the process of sustaining.
1.2 The Paradox of City and Nature. We need contact with nature to create the
sustainable city.
1.3 How the Structure of the Environment Helps us Be At Home in the World.
Human beings are adapted to natu re, and in a good city, nature-like characteristics are also found.
1.4 Feeling Sufficiency in the Natural Environment. How nature-like environments
sustain human inner life.
1.5 Modernity and the Escape from Sufficiency. Modern environments rob us of the ability to feel whole.

2. Integrating Human and Nature.
2.1 Experiencing Not-Separateness. Wilderness experience and contemplation connect us to the world.
2.2 Inhabiting the Mind-Environment. The nature-like city fits the intuitive mind.
3. Cities as Living Systems
3.1 The Nature-Like City. The city is a living system.
3.2 Wholeness and Autopoiesis. The city is a self-creating organism according to the latest theories of life.
3.3 Our Relationship to Space. The shape of spaces in the city help it to function as a living entity.
3.4 The Mutual Creation of Sustainable Communities and Social Spatial Systems. Using the space-syntax theory of Bill Hillier, I show how the space supports human social and inner life, which in turn invests in the built urban fabric.
3.5. Structurally Open; Organizationally Closed. The city functions like a biological
organism, regenerating itself.
3.6 Self-Similarity. The city has fractal-like qualities, just as living structures do.
3.7. Earth-based scaling. The city is scaled to support human interaction with it.
4. How the Living City comes to Life.
4.1 Contacting our Innate Ability to Know What Supports Life. We know intuitively
what is a healthy environment and can develop certain tools to use that knowing.
4.2 Making Every Place Valuable. We transform the environment bit by bit by embuing it with value.
4.3 Transforming the Environment through Alexanders Theory of Centers. Introducing Christopher Alexanders Methods
4.4 Understanding the Properties of Centers. Details on the theory.
4.5 The Case of the Original And the Copy: How using the Properties Can Create
Visual Wholeness. An analysis of two Buildings.
4.6 The Case of Thamers: How Using the Properties Can Support Human Life. How the theory applies to a building in three-dimensional space. 5. Attributes of Places that Feel Like Home.
5.1 Visual Richness. Materials made by human hands offer rich food for the mind.
5.2 The Appearance of Being Adapted to Gravity. Verticality and rootedness in the earth.
5.3 Reading the Language of the City. Buildings communicate to you through their
geometry and materials.
5.4 Reading the Citys Communications that it is Alive. Events in the built environment such as paths in the grass are signs of how a city attempts to self-organize.
5.5 Places that Set you Free. Descriptions of such places. 6. Growing The Living City.
6.1 Tune to the Self. To create the living city, you must become aware of your inner life.
6.2 Visit Places that Allow You to Unfold. The importance of going into nature.
6.3 Develop the Body as Instrument. The signals of the body are the way we receive information about how the environment effects us.
6.4. Still the mind. Differentiating between mental chatter and felt information.6.5 Calibrate to Natural Forms. Through the body, one becomes aware of how natural forms support a sense of wholeness in the person.

6.6 Calibrate to Mature Places. By spending time in ancient cities and towns, we become aware of how they subtlely support human life.
6.7 Calibrate to Natural Scales. Engaging in local practices and human speed of movement.
6.8 Surrender your Ideas. Learn directly from the Environment using connecting to nature and ecopsychological methods.
6.9 Go into the Unknown. Allow for the emergence of new forms in the built environment without rationally controlling them.
6.10.Step into Connection. Connect deeply with people and place to allow a genuine emergence to take place.
6.11 Transform What Exists Using The Properties of Centers. Alexanders method
provides further parameters to the process.
6.12 Show Up with Others. By engaging the process with other people, we mutually support one another.
Illustration Credits


  1. I am so glad we crossed “paths”. I look forward to the book and years, hopefully, of exchange.

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