When I first got started making NYC bike advocacy and car-free streets videos back in the late-1990s on cable tv, I didn't know who William "Holly" Whyte was or just how important his work and research played in shaping in New York City. A few years later I made more friends in the livable streets world and met Fred & Ethan Kent at Project for Public Spaces. I got a copy of "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces" (1980) which in its marvelously-written, straight-forward way is the one book all burgeoning urbanists should start their world exploration with. Ethan later showed me part of the companion film and told me how he used to help Whyte cut negatives as a teen. Wow!
Recently, I read it again. With all the developments in film technology since his day, this thought has lingered long in my mind: how might Whyte present his research now and film his thoughts in a world which is now more accepting of public space? What would he appreciate? Were his words still valid?
So I excerpted some of my favorite language from the publication and tried to match it up with modern footage I've shot in NYC along with some from all over the world while working at Streetfillms. I certainly hope he would feel honored. And I hope it helps his research find a new audience.