My Favorite Urban Planning Books

Though this is a book about architecture, written by architects, it’s aimed squarely at the lay person, because Alexander believes they are best suited to the task of design: “People should design for themselves their own houses, streets, and communities. This idea may be radical…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.” The idea is to recognize the patterns you love and that suit your needs and combine them together to create a space you’d love to live in.
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This is the book I can't stop talking about. Speck is a bit of a contrarian: at its heart, the book isn't about walking at all. Instead, Speck aims to show how we can deliberately plan urban spaces to be useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting. At a deeper level, Speck reveals how our spaces shape our behavior, whether or not we're aware of it. Pragmatic, relevant, and completely fascinating.
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Walkable City was one of my favorite nonfiction books of 2015—it's the book I can't stop talking about. From the publisher: "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. Nearly every US city would like to be more walkable—for reasons of health, wealth, and the environment—yet few are taking the proper steps to get there. The goals are often clear, but the path is seldom easy. The 101 rules are practical yet engaging—worded for arguments at the planning commission, illustrated for clarity, and packed with specifications as well as data. It is the most comprehensive tool available for bringing the latest and most effective city-planning practices to bear in your community. Walkable City was written to inspire; Walkable City Rules was written to enable."
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From the publisher: "After decades of unchecked sprawl, more people than ever are moving back to the city. But is it better or worse for our happiness? The award-winning journalist Charles Montgomery finds answers to such questions at the intersection between urban design and the emerging science of happiness, and during an exhilarating journey through some of the world's most dynamic cities. He meets the visionary mayor who introduced a 'sexy' lipstick-red bus to ease status anxiety in Bogotá; the architect who brought the lessons of medieval Tuscan hill towns to modern-day New York City; the activist who turned Paris's urban freeways into beaches; and an army of American suburbanites who have transformed their lives by hacking the design of their streets and neighborhoods. Full of rich historical detail and new insights from psychologists and Montgomery's own urban experiments, Happy City is an essential tool for understanding and improving our own communities."
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From the publisher: "In this no-holds-barred treatise, Donald Shoup argues that free parking has contributed to auto dependence, rapid urban sprawl, extravagant energy use, and a host of other problems. Ubiquitous free parking helps explain why our cities sprawl on a scale fit more for cars than for people, and why American motor vehicles now consume one-eighth of the world's total oil production. But it doesn't have to be this way. Shoup proposes new ways for cities to regulate parking – namely, charge fair market prices for curb parking, use the resulting revenue to pay for services in the neighborhoods that generate it, and remove zoning requirements for off-street parking. Such measures, according to the Yale-trained economist and UCLA planning professor, will make parking easier and driving less necessary. You'll never look at a parking spot the same way again."
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