BOOKS BY PETER M. WOLF
My New Orleans, Gone Away:
A Memoir of Loss and Renewal
I loved it. It brings back great memories.
- Walter Isaacson, author of "Steve Jobs."
I would recommend it to anybody.
- Alfred Uhry, author of "Driving Miss Daisy."
- Winston Groom, The Wall Street Journal
- Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
Heartfelt, intimate, and painfully honest.
- Barbara Goldsmith, historian and author
In this poignant and vivid memoir, Peter M. Wolf, a member of one of New Orlean's oldest Jewish families, provides an insiders look at his fabled city and the wider world beyond that he comes to inhabit.
Written with humor and telling detail, MY NEW ORLEANS contains rare insight about the social structure of New Orleans; student life at Exeter, Tulane and Yale; the thrill of original scholarship; around the world travel before jets; medical school trauma; ingrained southern racism, and anti-Semitism; and American students' role in antiVietnam uprisings in Paris. In the background, he traces the rags to riches rise and fall of his city's and his family's engagement in the cotton, sugar and retail trades.
At Yale, Wolf's closest friends include Calvin Trillin, the author and celebrated humorist-to-be; Henry Geldzahler, the future world famous art historian; and Gerald Jonas, the poet and writer. These three, whose stories are woven into the narrative, conspire to unveil Wolf's curious 1950's variety of assimilated southern Judaism. (Trillin has contributed a Foreword).
After a year of medical school at Columbia, and continuing his journey of self discovery, Wolf returns to New Orleans to work in his father's cotton brokerage and simultaneously earns a master's degree at Tulane. In spite of a spicy love affair, his residence in a glorious French Quarter courtyard, his purchase of a dilapidated building he expects to restore, and growing prominence in his community, Wolf returns to the east. He completes doctoral studies at NYU and becomes an architectural historian, a profession in which he earns considerable prominence.
The authorr's complicated and achingly explored romantic life is slammed to a close by a saucy, waspy, ex-pat from Texas whom he meets in Paris during his year as a Fulbright scholar, and subsequently marries.
Reflecting the yearnings and anxieties of a generation that came of age after World War II, this is the iconic journey of a restless man who leaves the hometown he loves to discover the world, and in so doing, to find himself. MY NEW ORLEANS offers a penetrating and memorable account of a fading period of America's evolution, turbulence and possibilities, as unique as the city of Wolf's memory.
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From: Land Use and Abuse in America:
A Call to Action, 2010
As America shows distinct signs of relinquishing its world hegemony in military power, diplomatic influence, and economic solidity, domestic matters gain new attention. There is, at long last, emerging broad-based concern about America's degrading physical environment and simultaneous looming shortage of capital, credit, and natural resources. As these matters roil financial markets, stir scientific inquiry, and engender political debate, they underscore the imperative for wiser use and diminished abuse of the land.
People engaged in the domain of land use transformation are at the center of an epic. Everything that happens in the physical world affects land use, and land use affects everything that happens in the natural world, often for a very long time. Cities, towns, suburbs, and exurban development currently consume only 7 percent of the U.S. land area. As the population expands and economies evolve, much more terrain will be transformed, and built-up areas will be reconfigured. In the past, all across America, at every level of geography and at every scale of community, the natural land has been treated harshly and unwisely with adverse consequences.
In this first decade of the twenty-first century, a half century after the environmental consciousness-raising years of the 1960s, a more aware generation is ascending to community, corporate, professional planning, and government leadership. It is becoming clear that the old systems of land use and abuse cannot and will not provide a sustainably desirable future. Long-held assumptions are being abandoned that resources will never give out, that there will always be another unspoiled place to settle, and that everything will last forever.
Facing the inevitability of change and growth and being aware of past mishaps, urgent need exists for more insightful planning. There is a vast opportunity going forward to do it well.
From: Hot Towns: The Future of the Fastest Growing
Communities in America, 1999
In a new and vast migration, each year a million of the most successful, accomplished, and well-off Americans are moving to the nation's most desirable communities. The wealth and cash flow that transfers with them each year is greater than the entire market value of all Manhattan real estate. This book is about that migration and also about those communities - today's hot towns - and how they may be harmed by their new inhabitants. Those growth towns scattered all across the country that learn to incorporate newcomers wisely will survive and prosper. Those that grown rapidly without new guiding precepts are already losing their appeal.
Today's voluntary movement of people of all ages out of older cities and suburbs to generally smaller, more remote, more physically attractive locales, and back into the most desirable locations in some cities, is the fifth national migration and is unlike any that preceded it.
This book extends an exploration of issues that have long interested me. For over twenty-five years as an investment advisor and planning consultant I have been engaged with the fifth migration. I first examined some topics discussed here during the 1970s in The Future of the City, and then mulled them over in other ways during the late 1970s and early 1980s, as summarized in various sections of Land in America. In my professional practice, research, and writing I have been on the track of a stunning event without understanding just what it was. I was seeing, thinking about, and reporting fragments without recognizing the whole - the rumblings of the fifth migration.
From: Land In America: Its Value, Use, and Control, 1981
No book for laymen has ever been written about land in America - public and private. And now I know why. Pertinent information is dispersed, vague, and varied. The range of linked, essential considerations is preposterously large. Few archives exist. Relatively few helpful public records are maintained; and the private records that are kept are kept very privately.
One aim of this book is to caution and inform readers who seek to decide whether to hold, buy, or sell a parcel of undeveloped land. But beyond this is an examination of facts and fictions, links and connections, which, taken together, cast a much wider spotlight on land in America. It is a quest to reveal ways in which particular national trends now set in motion will each play a decisive role in determining how this country looks, how its land is merchandized, and what its future will be. At points along the way, I offer predictions. At other times I take the liberty of suggesting ways to redirect certain public policies and private activities which I feel to be misguided because of their adverse impact on land.
The future of the land is basic to how much each of us will pay for a place to live. The destiny of cities, the fate of suburbs, the future of the open countryside, the very quality and character of life where each of us lives, is affected. Food costs and supplies; much of the way wood, minerals, water, and recreation resources of our country are managed or mismanaged; private property right; and the rate and the way that we are taxed - each is involved.
The American past was characterized by a tradition of protected and implicit links between land, power, and wealth which favored relatively few influential individuals and businesses. In recent years, as a larger proportion of people in America gain economic stability and political influence, more than ever before these connections are questioned, tampered with, altered. Testing occurs on the open land, in suburban communities, in city centers. As a result, significant new initiatives are evident. These changes touch the lives of all people living in America, rich and poor, landowner or tenant. When the established links between land, power, and wealth in America are interfered with, citizens of every class and every political stripe take an avid position. There is much to lose, and much to gain.
From: The Future of the City: New Directions in Urban Planning, 1974
My experience in recent years convinces me that more and more people are in fact suddenly thinking about cities. Some wonder whether to continue living in town or move to the suburbs. Others consider a move back to the city or to a place still further out. Many need to decide where to locate a store, a distribution center. Where should major investments be made? Across the country citizens are increasingly in a position to make fundamental decisions about urbanism as members of local planning boards, as voters in a bond referendum, as advocates or protestors. Faced with options to determine the place, shape, and quality of life for years to come, they seek a basis for decision.
Each chapter centers on an issue or trend that I believe to be of central importance to the understanding of American urbanism in the recent past and the near future. I have included my perceptions of where these trends may be heading. In addition, my intention is to point out directions that appear to me disadvantageous as well as those that seem especially promising, worthy of intensive effort, interest, and support.
Administrative temerity, fiscal penuriousness, foreign preoccupation, legal strictures, and social conflict continue to severely limit the effective development of most promising, innovative urbanistic proposals. If significant progress is to be made, available progressive planning concepts must be matched by imaginative and workable devices for implementation.
It is all too often assumed that the cities have had it, that their purpose and promise are not of our time. I doubt this assumption. The city remains one of mans' few inventions which respects the increasingly evident and very new reality to Americans of finite physical, human and natural resources that must be shared and managed in a reasonable way. In focusing on where change is beginning to be in evidence, and the quality of new planning concepts only recently evolved, it becomes evident that the future of the city is indeed promising.
This promise is exposed, I hope, in the various chapters of this book which consider trends and new directions affecting downtown, the street, the urban highway, public transportation, housing, the urban environment, historic preservation, urban conservation, land use regulation and the practice of urbanism. Each of these offers a window into present-day integrated and multi-faceted new directions in urbanism.
From: The Evolving City: Urban Design Proposals by Ulrich Franzen and Paul Rudolph, 1974
The purpose of this book is to display two very large urban design projects which focus on Manhattan. One project is centered on the Upper East Side of the island between 59th. and 96th. Streets. The other focuses on the corridor of the once proposed and much discussed Lower Manhattan Expressway.
Franzen and Rudolph seize specific terrain as an aid to presentation, not as a unique locus of application. The projects may be seen as the orchestration of many ideas, some new and some reused, into relatively coherent urban design proposals. Their intention is to stimulate the imagination - to suggest evolutionary alternatives for cities. Each proposal is composed of ideas presented to e used, to be seminal in certain respects, certain places, and certain circumstances to make urban design more pertinent and urban life more enjoyable.
In general direction, the proposals contrast in their very different attitudes toward the role of transportation and the uses of the public domain. Thus they add up to fundamentally different views of an appropriate future for our evolving cities.
Introduction: Views of Ulrich Franzen and Paul Rudolph
It appears to us that most models for the reordering of the existing urban environment are inadequate and generally contain fallacies. Our work seeks to provide an impetus for the derivation of new models that will provide more appropriate patterns for necessary actions. These models will hopefully fulfill our most basic conviction: that the quality of life in existing cities must be dramatically changed to provide dignity, place and beauty, if the cities are to have a chance at all.
When considering the central city, we believe the following to be self-evident:
From: Another Chance for Cities, 1970
Text from a companion volume to the Exhibition of the same title organized by Robert A. M. Stern and John S. Hagmann for the Whitney Museum of American Art, focused on the work of the New York State Urban Development Corporation.
The cities are aging, and smaller towns are deteriorating and the countryside is emptying. Less than 10 percent of the land is now used for all urban purposes. The people are clustered tightly; many of them in inadequate housing, working in inconvenient locations, or not working at all because of physical, legal or psychic barriers.
It is expected that an additional 100 million new residents must be housed in America during the next 30 years. In this decade 2.6 million new homes are needed annually. But less than half that number will be built.
Nor will the growing population find its way to new frontiers or settle in uncrowded villages. Instead, nearly 100 percent of the increased population will be jammed within existing large metropolitan areas.
Older cities; destroyed neighborhoods; a ravaged countryside; insufficient new housing; limited sources of funds for building; construction methods not relevant to our time or to the magnitude of need those and other unnecessary national inadequacies of a technologically sophisticated and immensely wealthy nation demand a response if there is to be another chance for cities.
From: Eugène Hénard and the Beginning of Urbanism in Paris 1900-1914, 1969
Urbanism describes an approach that views the city simultaneously from points of view of circulation, hygiene, social welfare, and esthetics. The urbanist or city planner coordinates the demands asserted by these many points of view, and synthesizes them into a city plan.
This field and this process of urbanism contrasts with art urbain, the architects' traditional attempt to embellish the city by designing streets and vistas and monuments and buildings in an arrangement, such as Gabriels Place de la Concorde, calculated for visual impact. Urbanism or city planning represents a movement away from primary emphasis on a visually organized plan by a grand designer to a systematic structuring of the city for practical land uses and efficient circulation by a group of trained experts. Broad economic and social preoccupations replace visual ones as underlying considerations.
The shift from the primary preoccupations and the method of art urbain to those of urbanism, represents a new emphasis that took place throughout Europe and the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. More than any other individual, Eugene Henard, as I hope to demonstrate, brought this change to France.
One must conclude that within the brief span of his career as a self-taught urbanist, Henard had not only become an important international figure in city planning circles, but had clearly reached the top of his profession in France. In the broad realm of international achievements in city planning, a realm in which Henard was one of the leading figures during the emergence of the new urbanism in the early years of the twentieth century, he made lasting practical and still important theoretical contributions