William H. Whyte

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William Hollingsworth "Holly" Whyte (1917 - 12 January 1999) was an American sociologist, journalist, and peoplewatcher.

Whyte was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1917 and died in New York City in 1999. An early graduate of St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware, he graduated from Princeton University and then served in Marine Corps. In 1946 he joined Fortune magazine.

Whyte wrote a 1956 bestseller titled The Organization Man after Fortune Magazine sponsored him to do extensive interviews on the CEOs of corporations such as General Electric and Ford.

While working with the New York City Planning Commission in 1969, Whyte began to use direct observation to describe behavior in urban settings. With research assistants wielding still cameras, movie cameras, and notebooks, Whyte described the substance of urban public life in an objective and measurable way.

These observations developed into the "Street Life Project", an ongoing study of pedestrian behavior and city dynamics, and eventually to Whyte's book called City: Rediscovering the Center (1988). "City" presents Whyte's conclusions about jaywalking, 'schmoozing patterns,' the actual use of urban plazas, appropriate sidewalk width, and other issues. This work remains valuable because it's based on careful observation, and because it contradicts other conventional wisdom, for instance, the idea that pedestrian traffic and auto traffic should be separated.

Whyte also worked closely with the renovation of Bryant Park in New York City. He was the author of the restoration plan for Bryant Park in 1980, and contributed to the design of the modern Bryant Park.

Whyte served as mentor to many, including the urban-planning writer Jane Jacobs, Paco Underhill, who has applied the same technique to measuring and improving retail environments, Dan Biederman of Bryant Park Corporation, who led the renovation of Bryant Park and the Business Improvement District movement in New York City, and Fred Kent, head of the Project for Public Spaces.

His other books include: Is Anybody Listening? (1952), Securing Open Spaces for Urban America (1959), Cluster Development (1964), The Last Landscape (1968; "about the way metropolitan areas look and the way they might look"), The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980; plus a companion film in 1988[1]), City: Rediscovering the Center (1988).

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NAME Whyte, William Hollingsworth
SHORT DESCRIPTION American Sociologist
PLACE OF BIRTH West Chester, Pennsylvania
DATE OF DEATH 1999-01-12
PLACE OF DEATH New York City, United States
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