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Van Alen Book Club October 2019: Building and Dwelling

October 29, 7–9 PM

Van Alen Institute
30 West 22nd St.


This Archctober, we’ll dive in to Richard Sennett’s ambitious argument for an “open city.” In a sweeping romp through philosophies, jumping from the backstreets of Jakarta to the Google headquarters in Manhattan, Building and Dwelling proposes the existence of a dialectical tension between ville and cité. In this sweeping work, he traces the dialectical tension between the way cities are built, and how people live in them, from ancient Athens to twenty-first-century Shanghai.

At once trying to build a modern philosophy of cities while acknowledging, as he did most famously in The Uses of Disorder, the inherent messiness of cities, Sennett uses a compelling framework and aspires to an admirable, if elusive, goal… how to achieve the ethical city in the 21st century. It’s no small task.”
– LA Review of Books

This month’s book is available at a discount from the following independent booksellers:
– Community Bookstore (Park Slope) – 20% discount
(Just say you’re with Van Alen Book Club at check-out)

We are excited to have Filiep Decorte and Anya Domlesky moderate book club this month.

Filiep Decorte is currently the Deputy Director of UN-Habitat’s New York Liaison Office and the focal point for UN-Habitat’s crisis-related work in New York. He was acting Director from December 2016 to February 2018. He is Chair of the Global Alliance for Urban Crises.

During his career, Filiep has predominantly focused on urban initiatives in conflict- and crisis-affected countries, specializing in urban planning, land, and housing issues. He globally focuses on migration, displacement, land and conflict and the humanitarian -development nexus. He co-edited with Andrew Rudd the Quito Papers and the New Urban Agenda, led by Prof. Richard Sennett. He has worked for UN-Habitat for more than fifteen years in different capacities, including long-term assignments in Haiti, the occupied Palestinian territory, Somalia, and Morocco. He also acted as coordinator for UN-Habitat’s Global Disaster Management Program. He was trained as a civil engineer, architect, and urban and regional planner with advanced master’s degrees from the Universities of Ghent and Leuven in Belgium.


Anya Domlesky is an American urban designer and landscape architect. Her work deals with issues around urbanization, coasts, and water. Plaza Life Revisited, a recent study on small public realm spaces in New York, sought to understand how types and use have changed in 40 years. It has been featured in The Guardian and at the Bi-City Biennale (Shenzhen). Anya is currently Director of Research at SWA Group where she runs XL Lab. She has previously worked at the NYC Department of City Planning and Hood Design. She holds an MLA from Harvard GSD and an M.Arch II from McGill University.