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Claremorris

Book Discussion

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I am an avid reader and I just finished reading The Life and Death of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. I found the book very interesting and want to devote my summer to getting through as many books pertaining to urban development as possible. Does anyone have any suggestions?

I also want to devote this forum as a 'book discussion' of sorts to discuss any literature others may have already read or may be reading on the subject. Feel free to close this forum if this already exists.

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I just finished two that I would recommend. David Sucher's City Comforts and Ray Oldenburg's The Great Good Place. City Comforts is a pictorial how-to of making an urban village liveable. It is very Seattle-centric, but interesting. Oldenburg's book focuses on "the third place" (the first being home, and the second being work) where we can publicly live our lives, socialize, and participate in community. He discusses how the traditional beer gardens, main streets, barber shops and local pubs that were our great good places are in danger of disappearing. I found it to be a bit dated as much has changed with New Urbanism's upswelling of focus on living in one's community, but still a good read.

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I just finished two that I would recommend. David Sucher's City Comforts and Ray Oldenburg's The Great Good Place. City Comforts is a pictorial how-to of making an urban village liveable. It is very Seattle-centric, but interesting. Oldenburg's book focuses on "the third place" (the first being home, and the second being work) where we can publicly live our lives, socialize, and participate in community. He discusses how the traditional beer gardens, main streets, barber shops and local pubs that were our great good places are in danger of disappearing. I found it to be a bit dated as much has changed with New Urbanism's upswelling of focus on living in one's community, but still a good read.

sound goods, thanks Soren, i'll have to check those out

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I am an avid reader and I just finished reading The Life and Death of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. I found the book very interesting and want to devote my summer to getting through as many books pertaining to urban development as possible. Does anyone have any suggestions?

I also want to devote this forum as a 'book discussion' of sorts to discuss any literature others may have already read or may be reading on the subject. Feel free to close this forum if this already exists.

You might want to try Robert Putnam's "Bowling Alone". A huge amount of the book is given over to footnotes to document his hypothesis, but in the end, these footnotes provide great credibility to his conclusions -- namely that every extra 10 minutes spent commuting results in a measurable decline in civic engagement.

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A great book on the urban condition is Douglas Rae's City:Urbanism and its End. Using New Haven as a case study, it follows the history of American city life from colonial days through present day. Particularly interesting is that he carefully details the context of each historical period, and the connections (or lack thereof) between civic life, politics, and the actual physical development of the city. In my opinion, a real page-turner.

Anything by James Howard Kunstler, too, although I think his earlier books are better. They tended to be more analytical about the evolution of the suburban American lifestyle, while more recently he just seems to beotch and complain a lot (in an amusing way, at least).

BJE

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It wasn't easy to get my hands on, but I just received my copy of Stuck in Traffic, written by Anthony Downs, recommended to me by Recchia. :P

I haven't had a chance to read it yet, because I'm still working on a book of Lovecraft short stories ( <_< ), but thumbing through Downs' book, I was surprised to see that it looked very readable. I'm looking forward to it. Which is more than I can say for what remains of Lovecraft.

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It wasn't easy to get my hands on, but I just received my copy of Stuck in Traffic, written by Anthony Downs, recommended to me by Recchia. :P

I haven't had a chance to read it yet, because I'm still working on a book of Lovecraft short stories ( <_< ), but thumbing through Downs' book, I was surprised to see that it looked very readable. I'm looking forward to it. Which is more than I can say for what remains of Lovecraft.

Great book, though its conclusion is basically "there is no way to improve traffic problems" (sorry to spoil it for you). It is very readable though, and takes you through a bunch of traffic-improving measures and gives their pros and cons. And when you're done, you can read "Still Stuck in Traffic", its sequel.

May I also recommend "How Cities Work" (a great book knocking Celebration, Florida) and "Cities without Suburbs", which analyzes how the larger area cities of the south and west actually have a better way to control regional growth. I recommend the latter because I kind of disagree with the whole point of the book, which is that the bigger area cities of the south and west can better control their growth regionally since a larger percentage of the metropolitan area's population and area exist under the city's control. The author tries to use things like % minority % white in the city's boundaries to prove points though, which is pretty stupid since comparing a stat like that in a huge suburban containing city like Phoenix to a small, all urban city like Providence makes no sense. Obviously Phoenix will look less segregated as a whole, since its boundaries include wealthy suburban neighborhoods that in Providence's case would be in say Cranston or Barrington.

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May I also recommend "How Cities Work" (a great book knocking Celebration, Florida) and "Cities without Suburbs", which analyzes how the larger area cities of the south and west actually have a better way to control regional growth.

I agree with that to a point, but I fear we'd have an inferior urbanism in the core if we had to answer to people in Cranston and Barrington. It's bad enough that the wacko Fox Pointers get to have their say in how the city develops, imagine if we had to deal with people from the 'burbs?

There needs to be a way to give the urban core its ability to chart a course that makes sense for it, but also reign in sprawl in the outer rings. I feel our small state gives us a unique advantage in regional issues. Although our northern and eastern suburbs will forever be out of our control since they are across state lines.

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I agree with that to a point, but I fear we'd have an inferior urbanism in the core if we had to answer to people in Cranston and Barrington. It's bad enough that the wacko Fox Pointers get to have their say in how the city develops, imagine if we had to deal with people from the 'burbs?

There needs to be a way to give the urban core its ability to chart a course that makes sense for it, but also reign in sprawl in the outer rings. I feel our small state gives us a unique advantage in regional issues. Although our northern and eastern suburbs will forever be out of our control since they are across state lines.

I think Pawtucket, Central Falls and Providence could easily combine and actually be a much stronger force, mainly since they're all majority urban and share common problems and concerns. But if the whole metro suddenly combined into one, while it'd be good for schools probably due to a shared tax base, it'd be disastrous in terms of getting anyone to agree on anything.

RI Statewide planning needs to start acting as more than just an MPO and do some hardcore regional planning. They do have a regional land use plan now which is a start, but I think we need some legislation giving them more power over bad municipal planning and coordination in planning among municipalities.

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Kevin Lynch's Image of the City

Daniel Solomon's Global City Blues

Andres Duany's Suburban Nation

Oscar Newman's Defensible Space

Aldo Rossi's Architecture of the City

William Whyte's City: Rediscovering the Center

Colin Rowe & Fred Koetter's Collage City

William Whyte's The Exploding Metropolis

And two large books with a collection of writing about urbanism by several prominent urbanists (such as Jacobs, Whyte, Lynch etc):

Legates' The City Reader

The Blackwell City Reader

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Great book, though its conclusion is basically "there is no way to improve traffic problems" (sorry to spoil it for you). It is very readable though, and takes you through a bunch of traffic-improving measures and gives their pros and cons. And when you're done, you can read "Still Stuck in Traffic", its sequel.

OK, so he comes to the conclusion that there's no way to improve traffic problems, but then he writes a sequel? I'm no businessman, but that looks like a great way to make your money. And as long as he can keep talking, he has a great gig going.

Then again, he's writing trade manuals about traffic flow problems, so it's hard to accuse the man of being in it for the money, I guess. :blink:

As I said, I think I'll like it. You'll also be happy to know that I'm warming up to Lovecraft, too -- when he manages to keep the raving melodramatics to a minimum, that is. :thumbsup:

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