"The city comes into existence . . . for the sake of the good life." So wrote Aristotle nearly 2,400 years ago, articulating an idea that prevailed throughout most of Western culture and the world until the environmental consequences of the Industrial Revolution called into question the goodness of traditional urban life. Urban history ever since—from England’s early-nineteenth-century hygiene laws to mid-twentieth-century modernist architecture and planning to today’s New Urbanism—has consisted of efforts to ameliorate the consequences of the industrial city by either embracing or challenging the idealization of nature that has followed it.
Architect Philip Bess’s Till We Have Built Jerusalem puts forth fresh arguments for traditional architecture and urbanism, their relationship to human flourishing, and the kind of culture required to create and sustain traditional towns and city neighborhoods. Bess not only dissects the questionable intellectual assumptions of contemporary architecture, he also shows how the individualist ethos of modern societies finds physical expression in contemporary suburban sprawl, making traditional urbanism difficult to sustain. He concludes by considering the role of both the natural law tradition and communal religion in providing intellectual and spiritual depth to contemporary attempts to build new—and revive existing—traditional towns and cities, attempts that, at their best, help fulfill our natural human desires for order, beauty, and community.
What They're Saying...
"Architecture as conservatism? Bess argues for traditional architecture and urbanism, their relationship to human welfare, and the kind of culture required to sustain traditional towns and city neighborhoods. In a collection of essays, Bess makes a provocative case for order, beauty, and community— all in the conservative tradition."
— The Sutherland Review
"As Philip Bess understands, Western religious belief and traditional Western urbanism once largely coincided. In this splendid collection of essays and addresses written over two decades, Bess aims at turning coincidence into a new cooperation. With an optimism grounded in religious faith and historical insight, he confronts the kulturkampf between the New Urbanists on one side, and modernists, secularists, environmentalists, libertarians, and critical theorists on the other. Bess engages that struggle with alacrity and wit. How many practitioners of architecture read the Bible, Aristotle, Augustine, and Tocqueville, much less Alasdair MacIntyre, Philip Rieff, and Peter Berger?"
— Jonathan B. Imber, Class of 1949 Professor in Ethics, and Professor of Sociology, Wellesley College
"Among the intellectual contests of modernity, none has longer term consequences than the place and character of the human habitat in nature. Refusing the reductivist locksteps of both environmentalism and academic theory alike, Philip Bess ties his case for architecture and urbanism to the broad traditions of the West, where both God and man have standing. His arguments are erudite, radical, clear, and convincing—as useful as applied philosophy can be."
— Andres Duany, principal, Duany Plater-Zyberk Architects and Town Planners, and co-Founder of The Congress for the New Urbanism
"ISI Books is without question one of the most important publishers in America. If there is ever to be a broad revival of dynamic traditionalism, ISI Books will be right at its center… [I]n the first chapter, Bess, a Catholic who considers himself to be a New Urbanist, invokes Rieff, McIntyre and St. Benedict. I thought I was going to levitate! Do buy this book—it's full of exciting ideas, and written in a way that a layman can understand."
— Rod Dreher, Beliefnet
"I find that I learn much from seeing the world as [Bess] does.
I am grateful for an ally — a keen and irreplaceable one — in
the struggle against both the banality of suburban sprawl and the nihilism of the knee-jerk Modernist response… Till We Have Built Jerusalem is brimming with ideas
and insights that are well worth the attention of the entire
community of new urbanists."
— New Urban News
"Aristotle and Architechture could be an alternate title to this engaging collection of essays by Notre Dame architechture professor Philip Bess. What Bess finds in the Greek philosopher is a concern with ethics as the foundation of community, the idea that a city should provide a 'good life' for its citizens in ecological, economic and moral terms."
— Shepherd Express
"Bess advocates new urbanism, a contemporary architectural movement that seeks to build communities that foster human flourishing, in contrast to the suburban sprawl that has been the model for much postwar housing construction. New Urbanism aims to do this by building on a human scale, where mixed-use residential, commercial and communal properties are blended together on a scale not dependent on cars....This book should serve as a model for how professors at Catholic universities should write across the disciplines: a professionally solid yet readable treatment of issues grounded in philosophical and theological principles that offer solutions based on the whole truth about man."
— National Catholic Register