American Urbanist : How William H. Whyte’s Unconventional Wisdom Reshaped Public Life

On an otherwise normal weekday in the 1980s, commuters on busy Route 1 in central New Jersey noticed an alarmingsight: a man in a suit and tie dashing across four lanes of traffic, then scurrying through a narrow underpass as carswhizzed by within inches. The man was William “Holly” Whyte, a pioneer of people-centered urban design. Decadesbefore this perilous trek to a meeting in the suburbs, he had urged planners to look beyond their desks and drawings:”You have to get out and walk.”American Urbanist shares the life and wisdom of a man whose advocacy reshaped many of the places we know and lovetoday-from New York’s bustling Bryant Park to preserved forests and farmlands around the country. Holly’sexperiences as a WWII intelligence officer and leader of the genre-defining reporters at Fortune Magazine in the 1950sshaped his razor-sharp assessments of how the world actually worked-not how it was assumed to work. His 1956bestseller, The Organization Man, catapulted the dangers of “groupthink” and conformity into the national consciousness. Over his five decades of research and writing, Holly’s wide-ranging work changed how people thought about careersand companies, cities and suburbs, urban planning, open space preservation, and more. He was part of the risingenvironmental movement, helped spur change at the planning office of New York City, and narrated two films abouturban life, in addition to writing six books. No matter the topic, Holly advocated for the decisionmakers to be people, notjust experts. “We need the kind of curiosity that blows the lid off everything,” Holly once said. His life offers encouragement to be thoughtful and bold in asking questions and in making space for differing viewpoints. This revealing biography offers arare glimpse into the mind of an iconoclast whose healthy skepticism of the status quo can help guide our efforts to createthe kinds of places we want to live in today.