• Credit: Noah Kalina

It can't be measured in sustainability metrics. It's not always tied to architectural awards. And it's near impossible to define. But a sense of place is possible the most important quality in all architectural and urban projects. Avi Friedman, a professor of architecture at McGill University in Montreal searches for this elusive quality around the globe and reports back in The Nature of Place: A Search for Authenticity. Eleven essays cover evocative places such as Hong Kong; Petach Tikva, Israel; Fargo, N.D.; and Nunavut, Canada, and narrate Friedman's experience in each—both the positive and negative aspects. In York, England, he finds a civic square, at 500 feet by 325 feet, which leads him to mourn the lack of such squares in suburban America: "Squares are place where hidden social bonds are felt, and, therefore, efforts to conserve or bring them back are well deserved." If experience and feel are the measures of such special places, then they can't be outlined in CAD. But Friedman reminds us that they must be sought nevertheless.  • $19.95; Princeton Architectural Press, November 2011