A City without Limits

Jonathan Rose has spent a lifetime thinking about how to make urban communities better. It’s no small task, as he outlined in his sweeping treatise on the history and potential of urbanism, The Well-Tempered City, a book that Ford Foundation president Darren Walker called “mandatory reading” for anyone who cares about the cities of the world. The guiding mission of Jonathan Rose Companies—the firm he founded in 1989—is to develop green, affordable, mixed-use housing, and, through its real estate fund, to acquire and preserve affordable housing throughout the country.

Mindful spoke with this native New Yorker, son of a developer, passionate environmentalist, and longtime student of Buddhist and Jewish contemplative traditions about his work, the need for equitable solutions for many of our social ills, and the healing power of great urban design.

“We need an entirely different mindset—one that can marry humans and nature.”

Mindful: You’ve been meditating since you were a teenager. How would you say that your contemplative practice has informed the work you do and your dedication to “greening the built environment”?

Jonathan Rose: I’ve been interested in environmental science since I was a small child, and have considered myself an environmentalist all my life. But through my contemplative practice, I began to see the environment as an extraordinarily beautiful, interconnected, co-evolving, growing realm of life—a life

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