Five Books On How The City Works

A well-orchestrated urban environment has little to do with the height of its buildings, length of its roads, and the number of restaurants. In a idealistic non-human urban dictatorship these elements might be of great importance but in reality  it’s our human perception of the city that is and should be in the core of urban design.

Why do some public squares or parks feel soothing, friendly, inspiring, while others turn us away? Should we live in modern high-rises or strive for traditional townhouses? How many benches does a street need? All these are fascinating questions balancing between urban design and psychology that I constantly examine in my work. Here’re five of my favorite books on the topic.

1. Happy City

By Charles Montgomery

Writer Charles Montgomery argues that living in a dense, urban center will make you a happier person. He also argues that doing so is the best remedy for our environment at large, at a time when sprawl and car-dependence are expanding. Inside the book, there is plenty of research on the role of good urban planning and interviews with prominent architects, psychologists, and urban planners.

Buy on Amazon: Paperback | Kindle

2. The Death and Life of Great American Cities

By Jane Jacobs

Legendary city planner, critic and writer Jane Jacobs has been a prominent voice against most poorly planned cities and ideas. Her humanistic angle and expertise allowed her to give insight on what makes city streets safe, why neighborhoods are important, and what their purpose is in the larger scope of the city. Her work is compassionate, knowledgeable and timeless — the book has been republished multiple times since its original release in 1961.

Buy on Amazon: Paperback

3. The Works: Anatomy of a City

By Kate Ascher

Just like the human body, the city is a complex, orchestrated organism with various systems that rely on each other to keep the whole working correctly. Through illustrations and handsome infographics, writer and city researcher Kate Ascher details everything you ever wanted to know about how the world’s largest city, New York, works above and below ground.

Buy on Amazon: Paperback

4. Walkable City

By Jeff Speck

City planner and urban designer Jeff Speck details how our public health, economy, and sustainability can benefit from improving the cities’ walkability. Before, all cities were walkable, but for the last 60 years, cars and pedestrians have been at war on who gets the wider side of the road. Mr. Speck argues that betting on wider sidewalks, more dense public transport and introducing tiny conveniences for walkers will help us be healthier and more efficient city dwellers. Filled with vital advice for city planners ranging from planting more trees to building more visually compelling architecture.

Buy on Amazon: Paperback | Kindle

5. Dream Cities

By Wade Graham

Landscape designer and historian Wade Graham gives a lively, unique and accessible cultural history of modern cities: from suburbs to downtown districts — and gives advice on how to improve the way we live work and play in the urban space. The book tells the stories of the real architects and thinkers whose imagined cities became the blueprints for the world we live in.

Buy on Amazon: Paperback


 

For years, I’ve been traveling and photographing door knobs, windows, lamp posts, benches, and sidewalk textures. As part of an ongoing project documenting city details and artifacts to help uncover the visual culture of a place. Grab a set of 50 photo postcards of my favorite city details captured around the country. A necessary reference for designers, city explorers and visual connoisseurs. Buy now →