Creating cities that work for everyone means seeing them from different perspectives—literally. In Seeing the Better City, urbanist writer, photographer, and land-use attorney Charles R. Wolfe takes urban observation beyond design review and zoning codes, charting a future where all city-dwellers can contribute to the improvement of their city.

While big data, digital mapping, and simulated cityscapes are valuable tools for understanding urban space, Seeing the Better City emphasizes and celebrates the role of human observation in creating spaces that reflect authentic, local context. In the book, Wolfe presents a comprehensive toolkit for cataloging the influences of neighborhood dynamics, public transportation, urban form, and other elements that impact day-to-day life in a city.

Wolfe calls this the “urban diary” approach and emphasizes how the perspective of the observer—including their cultural identity and past social experiences—are key to understanding the dynamics of urban space. Through clear prose and vibrant photographs, he gives examples of practical tools that can make city planning and design more inclusive, including the role that cameras and smartphones can play in making urban observation more accessible to communities whose voices are often excluded from these discussions.

Check out an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the book below.