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The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

By William H. Whyte

In 1980, William H. Whyte published the findings from his revolutionary Street Life Project in The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Both the book and the accompanying film were instantly labeled classics, and launched a mini-revolution in the planning and study of public spaces. They have since become standard texts, and appear on syllabi and reading lists in urban planning, sociology, environmental design, and architecture departments around the world.

Project for Public Spaces, which grew out of Holly’s Street Life Project and continues his work around the world, has acquired the reprint rights to Social Life, with the intent of making it available to the widest possible audience and ensuring that the Whyte family receive their fair share of Holly’s legacy.


“It was Whyte who pioneered the use of time-lapse photography as a tool of urban planning, putting cameras in parks and the plazas in front of office buildings in midtown Manhattan, in order to determine what distinguished a public space that worked form one that didn’t.” —Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

“Whyte’s work remains a living and usable handbook for improving our cities, our countryside, and our lives.” —Nathan Glazer, Wilson Quarterly

“Holly always believed that the greatest lesson the city has to offer us is the idea that we are all in it together, for better or for worse, and we have to make it work.” —Paul Goldberger, Architecture Magazine

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
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Project for Public Spaces (2001)

Originally published by the Conservation Foundation in 1980.

Also by William H. Whyte

City: Rediscovering the Center (Doubleday, 1988): University of Pennsylvania Press, paperback (2009), e-book (2011); foreword by Paco Underhill.

The Last Landscape (Doubleday, 1968): University of Pennsylvania Press, paperback (2002); e-book (2012); foreword by Tony Hiss.

The Organization Man (Simon & Schuster, 1956): University of Pennsylvania Press, paperback (2002); e-book (2012); foreword by Joseph Nocera.

The Essential William H. Whyte (Fordham University Press, 2000), edited by Albert LaFarge; foreword by Paul Goldberger.

Available in Chinese (simplified characters)

Shanghai Translation Publishing, 2015

Listen to an appreciation of Holly Whyte, with clips from an interview with Terry Gross.