Book Notes: The Intimate City

Book cover of The Intimate City, Walking New York by Michael Kimmelman

At the beginning of the pandemic Kimmelman, a New York Times architecture critic went on walks with architects, historians, writers, and others. While the conversations with architects were for the most part approachable, very few of them stuck in my memory. On the other hand, I enjoyed the walks with historians and local activists.

Especially the two walks and conversations with Eric W. Sanderson, senior conservation ecologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society at Bronx Zoo, with the first one centred on the southern tip of pre-colonial Manhattan, or Manaháhtaan as it was called back when it was past of Lenape territory.

Or the walks through Greenwich Village with Andrew Dolkart, professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University and founding member of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, giving plenty of background information on the Stonewall riots.

Another memorable walk was with Monxo Lopez, an environmental and urban justice activist, who, on a walk through Mott Haven and the South Bronx told stories of various immigration waves in the history of the Bronx. He speaks about the two sides of being an activist, on one side, pain and fights against all the injustices, and on the other hand focus on painting a positive picture of the future, demonstrating what can be achieved by banding together and taking back their neighbourhoods. For example, their Mott Haven community land trust, while born out of an environmental justice goal, effectively transfers land from public and private ownership to community ownership, removing it from the speculative real estate market and ensuring permanent affordability.

Find An Intimate Walk in the Secret Bear Library.


Every species has its way of being. Our human way of being is that we talk to each other, we can share ideas about the past, so that, together, we can plan a future that includes nature.

In conversation with Eric W. Sanderson, senior conversation ecologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, based at the Bronx Zoo.

Like with opera or film, architecture involves myriad parts and different talents, many of which go unnoticed. During the pandemic I think New Yorkers suddenly appreciated the variety and depth of talent that was required to make the city function every day – how many different, often unrecognized people played essential roles.

In conversation with David Rockwell whose architecture firm Rockwell Group among others have worked on numerous on and off Broadway sets.

For architects, set design can be a useful lesson in the fact that nothing is permanent. Architecture aspires to be permanent. But permanence can be a little restricting, it turns out. Theater isn’t permanent. It exists when there is an audience.

In conversation with David Rockwell whose architecture firm Rockwell Group among others have worked on numerous on and off Broadway sets.