The Intimate City: Walking New York

Penguin Pr. Nov. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9780593298411. $30. ARCH
In 20 unnumbered chapters, New York Times architecture critic Kimmelman (Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre and Elsewhere) extols the pleasures of walking and records exchanges in four of New York City’s five boroughs (Staten Island is discussed only from a distance) with a constellation of urban specialists. The author pairs himself with experts for geological, topographical, and architectural explorations from Lower Manhattan’s Whitehall Terminal to the Bronx. Motivated by the isolating effect of COVID and inspired by Myra Hess’s consoling outdoor piano concerts during the air raids of World War II, Kimmelman characterizes his book as a collective diary, a mental atlas, and the work of an urban epicure (the flâneur). Complementary to Michael Sorkin’s Twenty Minutes in Manhattan but less exclusively architectural in focus, the book’s chapters each begin with a short history of the neighborhood and an introduction to Kimmelman’s cicerone, or tour guide.
VERDICT With interviews often meandering into the overly personal and with incidental-seeming uncaptioned photographs (their compelling views and dramatic cropping notwithstanding), this book would be more rewarding as a series of video tours.
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