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A non-linear, peripatetic guide to the city

Kansas City has grown from a rough riverside settlement to a sprawling metropolis in the blink of two centuries.

How we move about the city now, how we enjoy it as a place and admire what makes it distinctive are individual things. They depend on who we -- or you -- are. It depends on our individual histories, on the paths we’ve gone down in our personal and cultural lives. It depends on whether we actually take the time to read the city as we live, work and play in it.

About a decade ago, I set out to discover some of the things that make Kansas City what it is. How did we get from there to here? If you pick through the visible bones of the city’s past, what would you find? And, most important for the purpose of this exercise -- a magazine series we called "Architecture A-Z" -- what role does architecture play in creating the experience of Kansas City?

"We all see more of architecture than of any other art," the English journalist C.E. Montague once wrote. "Every street is a gallery of architects’ work."

Yet I’d venture to say that architecture is far from the minds of most Kansas Citians. We don’t dwell on the notion that the space we live in was shaped by architects. We take architecture and design for granted. We rarely consider that choices have been made -- choices based on money, laws, taste, time, materials and whimsy.

In 2011, I had the opportunity to expand my magazine column into this book. It's a quirky guide to Kansas City with text and photos (most of them by me). Originally published by Kansas City Star Books, the book essentially is out of print. But I know where to get copies. If interested, email me: