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Jonathan Rose: Civic leader, developer, philanthropist, author and visionary
Nov 18, 2017: Well-Tempered Cities That Harmonize Humans


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Cities are birthplaces of civilization; centers of culture, trade, and progress; cauldrons of opportunity—and the home of 80 percent of the world’s population by 2080. Our Awakin Call guest Jonathan Rose has a vision to transform these cities into well-balanced, nurturing, sustainable ecosystems that would not only help us thrive and grow, but also harmonize us with nature. A real estate developer, urban developer, philanthropist, and author, Jonathan Rose is best known as a developer of affordable, environmentally responsible communities.  Jonathan found inspiration for a vision of well-balanced cities from the legendary 17th century composer J.S. Bach, who used a new tuning system called “temperament” and a new technology, the clavier (the forerunner of See full.
Cities are birthplaces of civilization; centers of culture, trade, and progress; cauldrons of opportunity—and the home of 80 percent of the world’s population by 2080. Our Awakin Call guest Jonathan Rose has a vision to transform these cities into well-balanced, nurturing, sustainable ecosystems that would not only help us thrive and grow, but also harmonize us with nature.

A real estate developer, urban developer, philanthropist, and author, Jonathan Rose is best known as a developer of affordable, environmentally responsible communities.  Jonathan found inspiration for a vision of well-balanced cities from the legendary 17th century composer J.S. Bach, who used a new tuning system called “temperament” and a new technology, the clavier (the forerunner of the piano) to compose instructional patterns for composers and performers that demonstrated both the perfection of the whole and the role of the individual within it.  For Rose, “Bach’s music flowed across keys in ways that no one had ever explored before. The Well-Tempered Clavier was composed to align our highest human aspirations with the sublime harmony of nature. It is a model of the task we have today in designing and reshaping our cities.”

Awarded the Visionary Leadership Award by the MIT Center for Real Estate in 2010, Rose is author of the book The Well-Tempered City, What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach us About the Future of Urban Life, winner of the 2017 PROSE Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work by a Trade Publisher.  Rose proposes an urban methodology for “temperament” built on five qualities: coherence, circularity, resilience, community, and compassion.  He notes that “there's an amazing biological idea called bio-complexity, and the core of the idea is that all of nature comes from a vast and integrated gene pool. … [I]f you think of a city plan as the gene pool of a city, and we can figure out how to tie all the parts together so that they actually can co-evolve together. What nature has it, is so magnificent, is an amazing adaptive capacity, and what human civilization needs, what our cities need is that same adaptive capacity.”

Jonathan’s inspiration from music extends throughout his career and his extensive, visionary philanthropic work.  In 1979, he founded Gramavision Records, now a subsidiary of Rykodisc, producing over 75 jazz and new music recordings.  In 1986, he joined Wynton Marsalis and a leadership group to form Jazz at Lincoln Center, where he was chairman of its executive committee from 1996-2003 and oversaw the design and construction of its home, Frederick P. Rose Hall, named after his father

In 2002, Rose and his wife co-founded the Garrison Institute, which connects inner transformation with outer solutions to relieve suffering in the fields of trauma, education and the environment. He has served on the boards of The Educational Alliance, Enterprise Community Partners, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and is an honorary board member of the Natural Resources Defense Council, The American Museum of Natural History, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. 

Graduated from Yale University in 1974 with a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy, and from the University of Pennsylvania with a Masters in Regional Planning, Rose describes himself as both Jewish and Buddhist stating "I think Buddhism has really advanced the science of the mind, and Judaism has advanced the process of generosity."

Join us in conversation with this remarkable civic leader and visionary!


Five Questions for Jonathan

What Makes You Come Alive?
I love learning about the nature of our minds, how social, political economic, and ecological systems work, and how to draw lessons from these to try to create communities that are platforms for people to have better lives, while reducing their environmental impacts.

Your Greatest Inspiration?
In 1987, I attended my first meeting of the Social Venture Network, then a group of young business visionaries who were growing businesses to make the world a better place. They included Ben and Jerry, Anita and Gordon Roderick, the founders of the Body Shop, John Macke, who at the time had only one Whole Foods store and many others. They were working to improve the lives of their employees, to use their supply chain to improve the environmental aspects of production and much more. I had always wanted to create a real estate firm with such values- meeting others who were doing it inspired me to create The Jonathan Rose Companies as a mission focussed company, that builds new models of green affordable and mixed income communities, acquires existing affordable housing, and strives to connect our residents to better health, education and other services.

An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
When I was writing my book The Well Tempered City, Paul Hawken patiently listens to my endless wrestling with ideas, reviewed chapters, marked them up, guided me, corrected me in ways that were so kind, generous, supportive. I will be forever grateful.

One Thing On Your Bucket List?
To travel the Silk Route, see its cities, experience its cultures.

One-line Message for the World?
The first step is to realize that we are all in it together- recognizing our deep interdependence is essential if we are to address the social, economic and environmental issues of our time.


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