City Unseen New Visions of an Urban Planet Karen C. Seto, Meredith Reba, Kathryn D. Sullivan

Publication date:
18 Sep 2018
Yale University Press
268 pages: 254 x 229 x 24mm
147 color + 31 b-w illus.
Sales territories:


Stunning satellite images of one hundred cities show our urbanizing planet in a new light to reveal the fragile relationship between humanity and Earth
Seeing cities around the globe in their larger environmental contexts, we begin to understand how the world shapes urban landscapes and how urban landscapes shape the world. Authors Karen Seto and Meredith Reba provide these revealing views to enhance readers’ understanding of the shape, growth, and life of urban settlements of all sizes—from the remote town of Namche Bazaar in Nepal to the vast metropolitan prefecture of Tokyo, Japan.
Using satellite data, the authors show urban landscapes in new perspectives. The book’s beautiful and surprising images pull back the veil on familiar scenes to highlight the growth of cities over time, the symbiosis between urban form and natural landscapes, and the vulnerabilities of cities to the effects of climate change. We see the growth of Las Vegas and Lagos, the importance of rivers to both connecting and dividing cities like Seoul and London, and the vulnerability of Fukushima and San Juan to floods from tsunami or hurricanes. The result is a compelling book that shows cities’ relationships with geography, food, and society.

Karen C. Seto is the Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Meredith Reba is research associate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

“[A] beautiful new book [. . .] City Unseen, is based on the striking geometries and bold colors of satellite images and tells about our urban world as it is seen from space”— Roman Cybriwsky, Environmental History

“The images in City Unseen struck me in much the same way as my views out the spacecraft window: stunning, beautiful, and enlightening.”—Kathryn D. Sullivan, retired NASA astronaut and former Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“One will never look at cities in the same way. City Unseen provides an urban observatory and tells a compelling story of sustainable development that all should see and read, regardless of where one calls home.”—Dawn J. Wright, Chief Scientist, Esri

“City Unseen allows a unique look at cities with the help of satellite technology, demonstrating both our vulnerability and the opportunities to design a sustainable urban future.”— Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Former Director General, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

“Magnificent. Powerful images and crisp informative writing put cities across the world into comparative perspective to reveal patterns and places hitherto unseen.”—Susan Parnell, African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town

"Seto and Reba have produced a masterful and much-needed foundation to reinforce decision-makers’ abilities to manage 21st century territorial development. This is a must-read and enduring reference for all urbanists."—Eugenie L. Birch, University of Pennsylvania