American Urban Form: A Representative History

MIT Press
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An illustrated history of the American city's evolution from sparsely populated village to regional metropolis.

American Urban Form—the spaces, places, and boundaries that define city life—has been evolving since the first settlements of colonial days. The changing patterns of houses, buildings, streets, parks, pipes and wires, wharves, railroads, highways, and airports reflect changing patterns of the social, political, and economic processes that shape the city. In this book, Sam Bass Warner and Andrew Whittemore map more than three hundred years of the American city through the evolution of urban form. They do this by offering an illustrated history of “the City”—a hypothetical city (constructed from the histories of Boston, Philadelphia, and New York) that exemplifies the American city's transformation from village to regional metropolis.

In an engaging text accompanied by Whittemore's detailed, meticulous drawings, they chart the City's changes. Planning for the future of cities, they remind us, requires an understanding of the forces that shaped the city's past.

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About the author

Sam Bass Warner, noted urban historian and Visiting Professor of Urban History at MIT, is the author of The Urban Wilderness: A History of the American City and other books.

Andrew H. Whittemore is Assistant Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of Texas Arlington.

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Additional Information

Publisher
MIT Press
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Published on
Feb 24, 2012
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Pages
200
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ISBN
9780262300926
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Language
English
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Genres
Architecture / Urban & Land Use Planning
Political Science / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The Asian urban landscape contains nearly half of the planet’s inhabitants and more than half of its slum population living in some of its oldest and densest cities. It encompasses some of the world’s oldest civilizations and colonizations, and today contains some of the world’s fastest growing cities and economies. As such Asian cities create concomitant imagery – polarizations of poverty and wealth, blurred lines between formality and informality, and stark juxtapositions of ancient historic places with shimmering new skylines.

This book embraces the complexity and ambiguity of the Asian urban landscape, and surveys its bewildering array of multifarious urbanities and urbanisms. Twenty-four essays offer scholarly reflections and positions on the complex forces and issues shaping Asian cities today, looking at why Asian cities are different from the West and whether they are treading a different path to their futures. Their combined narrative – spanning from Turkey to Japan and Mongolia to Indonesia - is framed around three sections: Traditions reflects on indigenous urbanisms and historic places, Tensions reflects on the legacies of Asia’s East–West dialectic through both colonialism and modernism and Transformations examines Asia’s new emerging utopias and urban aspirations.

The book claims that the histories and destinies of cities across various parts of Asia are far too enmeshed to unpack or oversimplify. Avoiding the categorization of Asian cities exclusively by geographic location (south-east, Middle East), or the convenient tagging of the term Asian on selective regional parts of the continent, it takes a broad intellectual view of the Asian urban landscape as a 'both...and' phenomenon; as a series of diverse confluences – geographic, historic and political – extending from the deserts of the Persian Gulf region to the Pearl River Delta. Arguing for Asian cities to be taken seriously on their own terms, this book represents Asia – as a fount of extraordinary knowledge that can challenge our fundamental preconceptions of what cities are and ought to be.

An examination of informal urban activities—including street vending, garage sales, and unpermitted housing—that explores their complexity and addresses related planning and regulatory issues.

Every day in American cities street vendors spread out their wares on sidewalks, food trucks serve lunch from the curb, and homeowners hold sales in their front yards—examples of the wide range of informal activities that take place largely beyond the reach of government regulation. This book examines the “informal revolution” in American urban life, exploring a proliferating phenomenon often associated with developing countries rather than industrialized ones and often dismissed by planners and policy makers as marginal or even criminal. The case studies and analysis in The Informal City challenge this narrow conception of informal urbanism.

The chapters look at informal urbanism across the country, empirically and theoretically, in cities that include Los Angeles, Sacramento, Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, Kansas City, Atlantic City, and New York City. They cover activities that range from unpermitted in-law apartments and ad hoc support for homeless citizens to urban agriculture, street vending and day labor. The contributors consider the nature and underlying logic of these activities, argue for a spatial understanding of informality and its varied settings, and discuss regulatory, planning, and community responses.

Contributors
Jacob Avery, Ginny Browne, Matt Covert, Margaret Crawford, Will Dominie, Renia Ehrenfeucht, Jeffrey Hou, Nabil Kamel, Gregg Kettles, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Kate Mayerson, Alfonso Morales, Vinit Mukhija, Michael Rios, Donald Shoup, Abel Valenzuela Jr. Mark Vallianatos, Peter M. Ward

This book project highlights creative approaches to planning and local development. The dynamic complexity, diversity and fluidity which characterize contemporary society represent challenges for planning and development endeavours. While research and policy work has extensively focused on large cities and on metropolitan regions, there has been relatively little work on ‘smaller places’.

This book shows that if these new challenges affect all places and regions, small and medium-sized towns (SMSTs) are suffering many specific problems that call imperatively for the design and implementation of very imaginative, creative approaches to planning and local development. What could enhance creativity in local development and planning? Is it possible to talk about creative capacity building at the level of a town that might release imaginative and innovative activities? Under what local and non-local conditions is creativity being initiated and flourishing? What are the major obstacles and in what way can these be contained in order to safeguard pockets of creative action?

Interdisciplinary and with case studies from France, Norway and other European countries, this volume presents a wide range of approaches and territorial contexts of small cities and towns in which spatial dynamics and the consequences of the city-region for urban planning theory and practice in Europe are highlighted, with a special focus on the challenges for - and understanding of - planning and development of SMSTs. It provides a significant body of critical, comparative and contextual perspectives on the quest for urban sustainability and resilience in SMSTs, therefore emphasizing collaborative and potentially innovative approaches that can be detected, but also the shortcomings, pitfalls and 'traps' that can lie behind the approaches aimed at concerting ecological, economic, and socio-cultural concerns, and the discourses promoting them.

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. After a ten-year silence, Christopher Alexander and his colleagues at the Center for Environmental Structure are now publishing a major statement in the form of three books which will, in their words, "lay the basis for an entirely new approach to architecture, building and planning, which will we hope replace existing ideas and practices entirely." The three books are The Timeless Way of Building, The Oregon Experiment, and this book, A Pattern Language. 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. At the core of the books, too, 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.
During his three terms as mayor of Curitiba, Brazil in the 1970s and ‘80s, architect and urbanist Jaime Lerner transformed his city into a global model of the sustainable and livable community. From the pioneering Bus Rapid Transit system to parks designed to catch runoff and reduce flooding and the creation of pedestrian-only zones, Lerner has been the driving force behind a hof innovative urban projects. In more than forty years of work in cities around the globe, Lerner has found that changes to a community don’t need to be large-scale and expensive to have a transformative impact—in fact, one block, park, or a single person can have an outsized effect on life in the surrounding city.
In Urban Acupuncture, Lerner celebrates these “pinpricks” of urbanism—projects, people, and initiatives from around the world that ripple through their communities to uplift city life. With meditative and descriptive prose, Lerner brings readers around the world to streets and neighborhoods where urban acupuncture has been practiced best, from the bustling La Boqueria market in Barcelona to the revitalization of the Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul, South Korea. Through this journey, Lerner invites us to re-examine the true building blocks of vibrant communities—the tree-lined avenues, night vendors, and songs and traditions that connect us to our cities and to one another.
Urban Acupuncture is the first of Jaime Lerner’s visionary work to be published in English. It is a love letter to the elements that make a street hum with life or a neighborhood feel like home, penned by one of the world’s msuccessful advocates for sustainable and livable urbanism.
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