Boundaries of the City: The Architecture of Western Urbanism


342 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-0538-1
DDC 711'.4'094




Reviewed by James A. Love

J.A. Love is an associate professor of environmental design at the
University of Calgary.


Alan Waterhouse is a professor of urban planning at the University of
Toronto. The thesis of his book is that boundaries (e.g., boundaries
between city and hinterland, boundaries between private properties and
public spaces) are a critical factor in urban development. From the
Sumerian capital of Ur to the contemporary suburb, the argument is
pursued through architectural history. This journey through
architectural history visits Greek cities of the Hellenic golden age,
Imperial Rome, medieval monasteries, cities of the Italian Renaissance,
and industrial Berlin.

Several elements, however, make the argument difficult to follow. The
narrative frequently diverges to pursue fascinating episodes in urban
history that are not placed in relation to the thesis of the book. The
argument is often couched in sweeping and unsupported generalizations.
An undisciplined writing style ignores basic principles, such as the
notion that a sentence should convey a single idea. And further,
Waterhouse confuses morality and preferences, or at least fails to make
any argument that there is a moral basis for his position regarding the
preferred structure of the city. His book is directed at the scholar who
is knowledgeable of, or prepared to become acquainted with, continual
references and allusions to classical literature and obscure essays on


Waterhouse, Alan., “Boundaries of the City: The Architecture of Western Urbanism,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,