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11 Books to Help You Plan and Understand Cities Better

11 Books to Help You Plan and Understand Cities Better

List by Igor Grushko, Editor: Aviya Bunzel

Have you ever walked around the city and thought about how can we make it better? More comfortable to get around for pedestrians? Safer for women and children?

Here you will find 11 books that may help you answer those questions. They will help you feel the experience of the city, rethink what you thought you knew about them, and explain why some cities are a joy to live in.

Reading those books will give you a look at the bigger picture and will enrich your personal and professional life.

Recommended for city planners, architects, urbanists, and even people who just like to live in the big city.




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101 Things I Learned in Urban Design School

Matthew Frederick, Vikas Mehta

Students of urban design often find themselves lost between books that are either highly academic or overly formulaic, leaving them with few tangible tools to use in their design projects. 101 Things I Learned in Urban Design School fills this void with provocative, practical lessons on urban space, street types, pedestrian experience, managing the design process, the psychological, social, cultural, and economic ramifications of physical design decisions, and more.

Written by two experienced practitioners and instructors, this informative book will appeal not only to students, but to seasoned professionals, planners, city administrators, and ordinary citizens who wish to better understand their built world.



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Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change

Mike Lydon,  Anthony Garcia, Foreword by  Andres Duany

Short-term, community-based projects- from pop-up parks to open streets initiatives- have become a powerful and adaptable new tool of urban activists, planners, and policymakers seeking to drive lasting improvements in their cities and beyond. These quick, often low-cost, and creative projects are the essence of the Tactical Urbanism movement. Tactical Urbanism promises to be the foundational guide for urban transformation.

The authors begin with an in-depth history of the Tactical Urbanism movement and its place among other social, political, and urban planning trends, and a detailed set of case studies demonstrate the breadth and scalability of Tactical Urbanism interventions.

 The book provides a detailed toolkit for conceiving, planning, and carrying out projects, including how to adapt them based on local needs and challenges.



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The Image of the City

Kevin Lynch

The classic work on the evaluation of city form.

What does the city's form actually mean to the people who live there? What can the city planner do to make the city's image more vivid and memorable to the city dweller?

To answer these questions, Mr. Lynch, supported by studies of Los Angeles, Boston, and Jersey City, formulates a new criterion-imageability- and shows its potential value as a guide for the building and rebuilding of cities. The wide scope of this study leads to an original and vital method for the evaluation of city form. The architect, the planner, and certainly the city dweller will all want to read this book.




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Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

Jeff Speck

Jeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive, and he has boiled it down to one key factor: Walkability. The very idea of a modern metropolis evokes visions of bustling sidewalks, vital mass transit, and a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban core.

However, in the typical American city, the car is still king and downtown is a place that's easy to drive to but often not worth arriving at. Making walkability happen is relatively easy and cheap; seeing exactly what needs to be done is the trick. In this essential book, Speck reveals the invisible workings of the city, how simple decisions have cascading effects, and how we can all make the right choices for our communities.




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The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs

In this classic text, Jane Jacobs set out to produce an attack on current city planning and rebuilding and to introduce new principles by which these should be governed. The result is one of the most stimulating books on cities ever written.

She goes against the unidentified planning that was common in the post-war period, inspired by the Garden City or Le Corbusier's Radiant City. Self-contained neighborhoods, super-blocks, rigid 'scientific' plans, and endless acres of grass.

 Jacobs argues that the real vitality of cities lies in their diversity, architectural variety, teeming street life, and human scale. Only this way we can create places people want to live in it.



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Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space

Jan Gehl

The first version of this book, published in 1971, was very much a protest against the functionalistic principles for planning cities and residential areas that prevailed during that period. The book carried an appeal to show concern for the people who were to move about between buildings, and it urged an understanding of the subtle, almost indefinable - but definite - qualities, which have always related to the interaction of people in public spaces.

The character of life between buildings changes with changes in any given social context, but the essential principles and quality criteria to be employed when working with life between buildings have proven to be remarkably constant. The basic message is: Take good care of the life between your buildings.




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Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design

Charles Montgomery

Happy City is the story of how the solutions to this century's problems lie in unlocking the secrets to great city living

This is going to be the century of the city. But what actually makes a good city? Why are some cities a joy to live in?

As Charles Montgomery reveals, it's not how much money your neighbors earn, or how pleasant the climate is that makes the most difference. Journeying to dozens of cities - from Atlanta to Bogota to Vancouver - he talks to the new champions of the happy city to explore the urban innovations already transforming people's lives.



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Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World

Leslie Kern

Feminist City is an ongoing experiment in living differently, living better, and living more justly in an urban world.

We live in the city of men. Our public spaces are not designed for female bodies. There is little consideration for women as mothers, workers, or carers. The urban streets are often a place of threat rather than community. Gentrification has made the everyday lives of women even more difficult.

What would a metropolis for working women look like?  In The Feminist City, through history, personal experience, and popular culture Leslie Kern exposes what is hidden in plain sight: the social inequalities are built into our cities, homes, and neighborhoods, and offers an alternative vision of the feminist city.



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Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places

Jeff Speck

Nearly every US city would like to be more walkable-yet few are taking the proper steps to get there. Jeff Speck's follow-up to his bestselling Walkable City is the resource that cities and citizens need to usher in an era of renewed street life- Walkable City Rules is a doer's guide to making a change in cities and making it now.

The 101 rules are practical yet engaging-worded for arguments at the planning commission. From selling walkability, to getting the parking right, escaping automobilism, and making comfortable spaces and interesting

Walkable City was written to inspire; Walkable City Rules was written to enable. It is the most comprehensive tool available for bringing the latest and most effective city-planning practices to bear in your community.



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Soft City: Building Density for Everyday Life

David Sim

Soft City is about ease and comfort, where density has a human dimension, adapting to our ever-changing needs, nurturing relationships, and accommodating the pleasures of everyday life. How do we move from the current reality in most cites-separated uses and lengthy commutes in single-occupancy vehicles to support a soft city approach?

 In Soft City David Sim shows how this is possible, presenting ideas and graphic examples from around the globe. He draws from his vast design experience to make a case for a dense and diverse built environment at a human scale, which he presents through a series of observations of old and new places, and a range of simply built phenomena.




Sustainable Urban Planning: Vibrant Neighborhoods- Smart Cities- Resilience

Helmut Bott , Gregor Grassl , Stephan Anders

Life in the city is popular and creating liveable urban space is undoubtedly a priority for planners. Yet what makes a city worth living in? How do we define sustainable neighborhoods that will function properly and continue to attract people in the future? What does "Smart City" or "resilience" really mean?

The completely revised, new edition of this publication provides the answers. It addresses the fundamental challenges of urban planning today and offers planners essential knowledge, implementation strategies, and ways toward holistic concept development. Examples of international neighborhood developments clearly show how aspects of sustainable urban planning can be implemented in practice.



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