15 Best Urban Planning Books
Urban planning is an integrated rollout, which is to standardize urban development and construction, study the future development of the city. It is the blueprint of urban development in a certain period of time, an important part of urban management.
Urban planning is based on the premise of development vision, scientific demonstration and expert decision-making to plan the development of urban economic structure, spatial structure and social structure. It is the preliminary work of urban comprehensive management, which plays an important role in guiding and standardizing urban construction.
Here are our top picks as the best urban planning books in 2022.
1. The Practical Permaculture Project
Are you becoming more and more concerned about the global economy and have a burning desire to return to the land in a meaningful way? What if you could restore your health and vitality in a way that brought you safety and assurance? What if you could work with nature efficiently to grow your own food? How would it feel to come home after a long day’s work and relax into the beautiful oasis you’ve created, knowing that your efforts also help to restore our planet? The world of today might be a bit chaotic, but you can learn effective strategies that uplift not only your own livelihood, but that of your friends, family, and surrounding community as well. Permaculture is the answer to so many of our world’s problems.
In this book, you can learn a lot. Why permaculture is the future for the human race and how getting started today is going to empower every aspect of your life. And it is absolute importance of having a plan in place before you start your permaculture garden and how you can create this plan today. Everything you need to know for success, including garden design basics, water management techniques, how to improve the soil, and how to compost. Therefore, getting started with permaculture is a gradual process, and requires slow and steady movement forward. The Practical Permaculture Project is the stand-out option It is both technically accurate and easy (even pleasant!) to read. This book gives a great overview of all areas with enough information that you can get started on your project right away.
2. Genius of Place
A fine read about an American icon. Frederick Law Olmsted is arguably the most important historical figure that the average American knows the least about. Best remembered for his landscape architecture, from New York’s Central Park to Boston’s Emerald Necklace to Stanford University’s campus, Olmsted was also an influential journalist, early voice for the environment, and abolitionist credited with helping dissuade England from joining the South in the Civil War. This momentous career was shadowed by a tragic personal life, also fully portrayed here.
Most of all, he was a social reformer. He didn’t simply create places that were beautiful in the abstract. An awesome and timeless intent stands behind Olmsted’s designs, allowing his work to survive to the present day. With our urgent need to revitalize cities and a widespread yearning for green space, his work is more relevant now than it was during his lifetime. In the formative years of a young nation, Olmsted literally changed the face and character of America with his social programs and landscape architecture.
3. The Death and Life of Great American Cities
A direct and fundamentally optimistic indictment of the short-sightedness and intellectual arrogance that has characterized much of urban planning in this century, since its first publication in 1961, become the standard against which all endeavors in that field are measured. In prose of outstanding immediacy, Jane Jacobs writes about what makes streets safe or unsafe; about what constitutes a neighborhood, and what function it serves within the larger organism of the city; about why some neighborhoods remain impoverished while others regenerate themselves. She writes about the salutary role of funeral parlors and tenement windows, the dangers of too much development money and too little diversity. Compassionate, bracingly indignant, and always keenly detailed, Jane Jacobs’s monumental work provides an essential framework for assessing the vitality of all cities.
She starts with the sidewalk. The sidewalk, after all, is where we live most of our lives if we live in a city. It’s where we walk, where kids play, where people congregate and look out for one another—whether they know they are doing it or not. She tells anecdotes—the one about the boy who was rescued by strangers on the sidewalk and the one about the boy trapped in an elevator in a project who cried and cried for hours but no-one came. The sidewalk, where people take responsibility for one another; where a community is formed; where we know our local grocer and that annoying lady next door is far safer than the projects where people—anonymous individuals—live cheek by jowl with their neighbors.
And from the point of view of the humble sidewalk, Jane Jacobs builds a kind of theory of cities: what works and what doesn’t. She makes points that, once she makes them, are nothing more nor less than common sense. She points out that we like interesting things and that what we, as people are most interested in, is other people. So we like to people-watching. And that means we need different, truly different, buildings on our sidewalks. It just doesn’t work to have a part of the city that’s all “about culture” and another part that’s all “about business” and yet a third that’s “all about” housing. We don’t live our lives like that. The author writes in simple, easy-to-read prose and the lessons she teaches the reader are all the more memorable for that.
4. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction
You can use this book to design a house for yourself with your family; you can use it to work with your neighbors to improve your town and neighborhood; you can use it to design an office, or a workshop, or a public building. And you can use it to guide you in the actual process of construction.
At the core of these books is the idea that people should design for themselves their own houses, streets, and communities. This idea may be radical (it implies a radical transformation of the architectural profession) but it comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people. Another is the point that in designing their environments people always rely on certain “languages,” which, like the languages we speak, allow them to articulate and communicate an infinite variety of designs within a forma system which gives them coherence. This book provides a language of this kind. It will enable a person to make a design for almost any kind of building, or any part of the built environment.
“Patterns,” the units of this language, are answers to design problems (How high should a window sill be? How many stories should a building have? How much space in a neighborhood should be devoted to grass and trees?). More than 250 of the patterns in this pattern language are given: each consists of a problem statement, a discussion of the problem with an illustration, and a solution. As the authors say in their introduction, many of the patterns are archetypal, so deeply rooted in the nature of things that it seemly likely that they will be a part of human nature, and human action, as much in five hundred years as they are today.
5. Confessions of a Recovering Engineer
Discover insider secrets of how America’s transportation system is designed, funded, and built – and how to make it work for your community. In the confessions of the book, renowned speaker and author of Strong Towns Charles L. Marohn Jr. delivers an accessible and engaging exploration of America’s transportation system, laying bare the reasons why it no longer works as it once did, and how to modernize transportation to better serve local communities. You’ll discover real-world examples of poor design choices and how those choices have dramatic and tragic effects on the lives of the people who use them. You’ll also find case studies and examples of design improvements that have revitalized communities and improved safety.
This important book shows you the importance. Firstly, the values of the transportation professions, how they are applied in the design process, and how those priorities differ from those of the public. Additionally, how the standard approach to transportation ensures the maximum amount of traffic congestion possible is created each day, and how to fight that congestion on a budget. Finally, bottom-up techniques for spending less and getting higher returns on transportation projects, all while improving quality of life for residents. Perfect for anyone interested in why transportation systems work – and fail to work – the way they do, this book is a fascinating insider’s peek behind the scenes of America’s transportation systems.
6. Stealing Home: Los Angeles, the Dodgers, and the Lives Caught in Between
It is a story about baseball, family, the American Dream, and the fight to turn Los Angeles into a big league city. Dodger Stadium is an American icon. But the story of how it came to be goes far beyond baseball. The hills that cradle the stadium were once home to three vibrant Mexican American communities. In the early 1950s, those communities were condemned to make way for a utopian public housing project. Then, in a remarkable turn, public housing in the city was defeated amidst a Red Scare conspiracy.
Instead of getting their homes back, the remaining residents saw the city sell their land to Walter O’Malley, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Now LA would be getting a different sort of utopian fantasy — a glittering, ultra-modern stadium. But before Dodger Stadium could be built, the city would have to face down the neighborhood’s families — including one, the Aréchigas, who refused to yield their home. The ensuing confrontation captivated the nation – and the divisive outcome still echoes through Los Angeles today.
7. WALKABLE CITY
It is the Best Book of the Year according to Planetizen and the American Society of Landscape Architects. Jeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive. And he has boiled it down to one key factor: walkability. Making downtown into a walkable and viable community is the essential fix for the typical American city; it is eminently achievable and its benefits are manifold. Walkable City―bursting with sharp observations and key insights into how urban change happens―lays out a practical, necessary, and inspiring vision for how to make American cities great again.
Cities are the future of the human race, and Jeff Speck knows how to make them work. In this book, he persuasively explains how to create rational urban spaces and improve quality of life by containing the number one vector of global environmental catastrophe: the automobile. Jeff Speck’s brilliant and entertaining book reminds us that, in America, the exception could easily become the rule. Mayors, planners, and citizens need look no further for a powerful and achievable vision of how to make our ordinary cities great again.
8. The Timeless Way of Building
The theory of architecture implicit in our world today, Christopher Alexander believes, is bankrupt. More and more people are aware that something is deeply wrong. Yet the power of present-day ideas is so great that many feel uncomfortable, even afraid, to say openly that they dislike what is happening, because they are afraid to seem foolish, afraid perhaps that they will be laughed at. Now, at last, there is a coherent theory which describes in modern terms an architecture as ancient as human society itself.
This book is the introductory volume in the Center for Environmental Structure series, Christopher Alexander presents in it a new theory of architecture, building, and planning which has at its core that age-old process by which the people of a society have always pulled the order of their world from their own being. Alexander writes, “There is one timeless way of building. It is thousands of years old, and the same today as it has always been. The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the center of this way. And as you will see, this way will lead anyone who looks for it to buildings which are themselves as ancient in their form as the trees and hills, and as our faces are.”
9. Seeking New York
Beautifully illustrated with line drawings and photographs, engagingly presented, and richly detailed, this charming guide traces the architectural and social history of Manhattan one building at a time. The island of Manhattan has been through remarkable architectural and social change throughout its history. Organized roughly by neighborhoods, this book explores the seemingly never-ending depths of architectural, personal, and social history of Manhattan, building by building. Follow the family feud that led to the construction of the luxurious Waldorf Astoria, or trace the decay of a once proud home to an increasingly humble storefront, delving into the surprising, sometimes scandalous, often touching stories of the people who lived there along the way.
Alongside the details about each architect, dates, and styles, author Tom Miller reveals the joys, tragedies, and scandals of those who lived within. In addition to iconic structures, the book includes many off-the-beaten-path buildings that most guidebooks overlook, as well as notable buildings that no longer stand but remain key to Manhattan’s architectural history. Beautifully researched, engagingly presented, and richly detailed, Seeking New York is truly a must-read for anyone interested in the story of New York and how it got that way.
10. Curbing Traffic
In this book, Melissa and Chris Bruntlett chronicle their experience living in the Netherlands and the benefits that result from treating cars as visitors rather than owners of the road. They weave their personal story with research and interviews with experts and Delft locals to help readers share the experience of living in a city designed for people. In the planning field, little attention is given to the effects that a “low-car” city can have on the human experience at a psychological and sociological level. Studies are beginning to surface that indicate the impact that external factors—such as sound—can have on our stress and anxiety levels. Or how is the systematic dismantling of freedom and autonomy for children and the elderly to travel through their cities causing isolation and dependency.
In the book, it explains why these investments in improving the built environment are about more than just getting from place to place more easily and comfortably. The insights will help decision makers and advocates to better understand and communicate the human impacts of low-car cities: lower anxiety and stress, increased independence, social autonomy, inclusion, and improved mental and physical wellbeing. The book is organized around the benefits that result from thoughtfully curbing traffic, resulting in a city that is child-friendly, connected, trusting, feminist, quiet, therapeutic, accessible, prosperous, resilient, and age-friendly.
11. Building Chicago
Building Chicagopresents the best of this country’s first city of architecture. Colloquially known as America’s “second city,” Chicago is widely regarded as this country’s crown jewel when it comes to architecture. The roster of masters who have helped shape its skyline and streetscape stands as a who’s who of the architectural pantheon from the last two hundred years, from Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, and Frank Lloyd Wright to Mies van der Rohe and Frank Gehry.
Lavishly illustrated, this volume compellingly displays the masterworks of Chicago architecture. It features the city’s beloved masterpieces by Wright, including the Robie House, such milestones as the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Building, Gehry’s Pritzker Bandshell, as well as a wealth of little-known treasures from Chicago’s early days culled from the vast collection of the Chicago History Museum. Those of us who are absorbed in both Chicago’s fascinating history and its astonishing architecture, the images are reason enough to acquire the book.
12. Radical Technologies
It is a “tremendously intelligent and stylish” guide to the new technologies that are transforming our everyday lives, in ways both good and bad. Everywhere we turn, a startling new device promises to transfigure our lives. In this urgent and revelatory excavation of our Information Age, leading technology thinker Adam Greenfield forces us to reconsider our relationship with the networked objects, services and spaces that define us. It is time to re-evaluate the Silicon Valley consensus determining the future.
We already depend on the smartphone to navigate every aspect of our existence. We’re told that innovations—from augmented-reality interfaces and virtual assistants to autonomous delivery drones and self-driving cars—will make life easier, more convenient and more productive. 3D printing promises unprecedented control over the form and distribution of matter, while the Blockchain stands to revolutionize everything from the recording and exchange of value to the way we organize the mundane realities of the day to day. And, all the while, fiendishly complex algorithms are operating quietly in the background, reshaping the economy, transforming the fundamental terms of our politics and even redefining what it means to be human. Having successfully colonized everyday life, these radical technologies are now conditioning the choices available to us in the years to come.
13. The Works: Anatomy of a City
It is a fascinating guided tour of the ways things work in a modern city. Have you ever wondered how the water in your faucet gets there? Where your garbage goes? What the pipes under city streets do? How bananas from Ecuador get to your local market? Why radiators in apartment buildings clang? Using New York City as its point of reference, The Works takes readers down manholes and behind the scenes to explain exactly how an urban infrastructure operates. Deftly weaving text and graphics, author Kate Ascher explores the systems that manage water, traffic, sewage and garbage, subways, electricity, mail, and much more. Full of fascinating facts and anecdotes, The Works gives readers a unique glimpse at what lies behind and beneath urban life in the twenty-first century.
14. The Great American House
Acclaimed architect Gil Schafer illustrates how he blends classical architecture, interior decoration, and landscape to create homes with a feeling of history. As a traditional architect, Gil Schafer specializes in building new “old” houses as well as renovating historic homes. His work takes the best of American historic and classical architecture—its detailed moldings and harmonious proportions—and updates it, retaining its character and detail while simultaneously reworking it to be more in tune with the way we live now—comfortable, practical, family-oriented.
In his first book, Schafer covers the three essential cornerstones of creating a great traditional house: architecture, landscape, and decoration. He discusses the important interplay between the interior architecture and the fabrics, furniture, and wall treatments. In-depth profiles build on these essays, including Schafer’s own new “old” house in the Hudson Valley; the renovation of a historic home in Nashville designed by Charles Platt in 1915; and the restoration of a magnificent 1843 Greek Revival mansion in Charleston. Filled with hundreds of interior and detail shots, The Great American House is an invaluable resource for anyone who loves old houses and traditional design.
15. Sixteenth Street NW
The book is a richly illustrated architectural “biography” of one of DC’s most important boulevards. Sixteenth Street NW in Washington, DC, has been called the Avenue of the Presidents, Executive Avenue, and the Avenue of Churches. From the front door of the White House, this north-south artery runs through the middle of the District and extends just past its border with Maryland. The street is as central to the cityscape as it is to DC’s history and culture.
In the book, John DeFerrari and Douglas Peter Sefton depict the social and architectural history of the street and immediate neighborhoods, inviting readers to explore how the push and pull between ordinary Washingtonians and powerful elites has shaped the corridor ― and the city. This highly illustrated book features notable buildings along Sixteenth Street and recounts colorful stories of those who lived, worked, and worshipped there. Maps offer readers an opportunity to create self-guided tours of the places and people that have defined this main thoroughfare over time.
What readers will find is that both then and now, Sixteenth Street NW has been shaped by a diverse array of people and communities. The street, and the book, feature a range of sites ― from Black Lives Matter Plaza to the White House, from mansions and rowhomes to apartment buildings, from Meridian Hill (Malcolm X) Park with its drum circles to Rock Creek Park with its tennis tournaments, and from hotels to houses of worship. Sixteenth Street, NWreveals a cross section of Washington, DC, that shows the vibrant makeup of our nation’s capital.
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