From Amsterdam in 1600 to London and Washington today, the people who live beside the North Atlantic Ocean have built cities with row houses. But why? Why do London and Washington have row houses while Paris and Minneapolis do not?  With this question, Charles Duff began his exploration of the world’s row house cities.

The result is a new book, The North Atlantic Cities now available for the first time in the US. It takes readers on a journey that begins in Holland in the 1600s and ends in the US, the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands in the present.  Through Duff’s lively prose and 180+ pictures, we watch as the North Atlantic cities grow, become beautiful, and invent many of the things we take for granted today: parks, mass transit, downtowns, even suburbia.  These are great stories, well told and well illustrated.

The author starts with a kind of building few others have considered — the row house, which could very well be the key to understanding why many of the world’s great cities look and function as they do. As the author theorizes, this innocuous-seeming housing type is perhaps the antidote to suburban sprawl, urban decay, and the worst catastrophes of global climate change. It is the story of four hundred years of architecture and urban development in four countries: the Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland and the United States, particularly cities like New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, Savannah and Richmond.

The book is available at various booksellers or at

Watch a book talk by the author organized by AIA Richmond.

About the Author

Charles Duff is a planner, teacher, developer, and historian. In a career of more than 35 years, he has built or rebuilt more than 300 buildings and led the revival of some of Baltimore’s most successful neighborhoods. He has been President of Jubilee Baltimore, the city’s premier community development nonprofit, since 1987, and has been President of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation. A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard University, he lectures widely in America and elsewhere and has taught at Johns Hopkins University. He co-wrote Then and Now: Baltimore Architecture in 2005 and contributed to The Architecture of Baltimore. His translations of two French works on Greek tragedy were published in the US in 2010 and 2012. His book The North Atlantic Cities has just been published in the UK and is available in the US.