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LEARNING the City: Beyond the Urban Diary


My viewpoint towards understanding cities is ecumenical and immersive. We all experience urban life, and have associated expectations, however simple or complex. In democracies, informed representatives are said to advance the needs of their constituents. Basic human needs are similar, but how they are expressed and sorted in a chosen location are not, so places will vary based on blends and mixtures of expression. To understand the particulars of a city, we must understand associated and customized needs, as well as opportunities to provide them.  
Achieving public health, safety and happiness will vary. Solutions may be similar, but not the same, and we need to understand—to see and feel—what these solutions, or ‘context keys’, look like from place to place. When considering customized ‘context keys’ for cities today, we must understand how each city or urban place varies from broad stereotypes. We should avoid one-size-fits-all solutions without community input.

Pages:155 to 160
Section: Viewpoint
How to Cite
Wolfe, C. (2020) “LEARNING the City: Beyond the Urban Diary”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(2), pp. 155-160. doi:

Author Biography

Seeing the Better City
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Charles R. (Chuck) Wolfe, M.R.P., J.D. provides a unique perspective about cities as a London-based urbanist writer, photographer, land use consultant and attorney. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at KTH University (Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm, and a long-time Affiliate Associate Professor in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington, where he teaches land-use law at the graduate level. He is also Founder and Principal Advisor at the Seeing Better Cities Group. Chuck has contributed on urban development topics to several publications, including Planetizen, CityLab/The Atlantic Cities, The Atlantic, Governing, CityMetricThe Huffington Post, Grist,, and He blogs at
Chuck also speaks regularly worldwide, including recent and pending engagements in Sweden, Australia, Scotland, and Portugal. He is a Fulbright Specialist through 2020, which included implementing urban diary principles from his books and practice in Cairns and Townsville, Australia during Summer, 2018. Before Seeing the Better City, his first book, Urbanism Without Effort, is now available as a revised  paperback from Island Press.



Wolfe, C. R. (2017). Seeing the Better City. Island Press.

Wolfe, C. R. (2019). Urbanism Without Effort. Island Press.

Wolfe, C. R. (forthcoming). Sustaining a City’s Culture and Character. Rowman & Littlefield.
Open Access Journal
ISSN 2206-9658