Adrienne Rich provides us with a fi tting opening for this book. Themes of public life and private meditation, memory and culpability, power and the differences between people that power gives rise to are all interwoven in the poet’s writing. Likewise they are worked into this study of architecture and ethics. In ‘Rusted Legacy’ architecture and the city are made into settings for humanity and its various guises: male and female, the empowered and the weak, the strident and the silent. In our book, building and urban form provide so many occasions – philosophical and historical, aesthetic and practical – for thinking about how these distinctions and others like them are made a part of life. The poet’s call to the imagination rebounds against allusions to authority and raises questions about how writing as a creative enterprise can support new thinking and political activism. Here, thoughts on the value of architecture as innovative, self-expressive and socially progressive prompt others questioning what sanctions much reasoning about buildings – questions highlighting the politics that comes from imagining how buildings should be designed versus how they ‘really’ are.