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Urban planner's helpful perspective on what makes a city livable; Good City Form, by Kevin Lynch. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 514 pp. $10.95 paperback

''Good City Form'' inspires. As a true teacher, Kevin Lynch prods us to reach, to discard preconceived barriers, to visualize beyond what we see around us as he makes us think in new ways about urban planning.

His purpose, he writes, ''is to make a general statement about (good places to live), one relevant and responsive to any human context, and which connects general values to specific actions.'' This he does from his perspective as a spatial planner and a longtime professor and proponent of planning theory.

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Lynch asks: ''What makes a good city?'' His answer is, in part, vitality - one of his five ''dimensions of settlement quality.'' This urban vitality calls for such qualities as safety, and consonance with our environment.

Lynch examines past and present use of earth spaces in cities, villages, parks, and in built and natural environments. He then proposes a systematic approach to improving cities, based on his newly defined social elements to urban planning.

Scholars will view this book as a text on normative urban planning - including theory, development, and application.

At the same time, ''Good City Form'' makes provocative reading for anyone interested in cities.

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