An urban design reading list

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Late getting 'round to this, but here's a link to my column in the current issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly, with some recommended reading on urban design. As I wrote in the column:

Urban design and architecture are too important to be left to the professionals.

You and I may not have diplomas hanging on the wall, but we're experts in those fields, because we live, work, play, drive, and walk in the results of the design decisions made by others. We may not have the vocabulary to explain what we're experiencing, but we know what we like. We remember being in urban places that feel alive and exciting, places that feel comfortable, places that seem dead, places that seem foreboding. Some places invite you to linger, others make you feel like hurrying along to get some place else as quickly as possible.

Architects and urban planners can help the layman put words to his gut feelings about good and bad urban design, but some of the best books on urban design have been written by journalists, and I recommend three that I've found especially insightful and useful, plus a couple of books by an architect. (At the bottom of this entry, I've provided some links to supplemental reading.) The ideas in these books can help to equip you to participate more effectively in the public debate over urban design, zoning, and land use policy.

The current issue of UTW includes Barry Friedman's end-of-year Double Take on the Sooner State and the city's most comprehensive listing of New Year's Eve entertainment. Music writer G. K. Hizer provides his recommended list of places to ring in the New Year. (Here are links to the regular weekly listing of live music and events, which include some New Year's Events. There's a Western Swing dance and covered dish supper in Bixby that looks like fun, but I don't think my wife is up to two-stepping right now.) You'll need the dead-tree edition to get the full listing and all the ads.

Gretchen Collins has a story about the 6th Street Task Force and the exciting plans for remaking that area, particularly the creative ways they propose for dealing with the flooding problem in what is, after 20 years of stormwater improvements, still one of the city's last unimproved drainage basins.

Also, in the web edition this week (although I think it was in last week's print edition) is Barry Friedman's review of an uneventful City Council meeting.

Now for some supplemental links that go with this week's column:

Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language -- a summary of each of the patterns described in the book, and the connections between them.

The introduction to Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown

Jim Kunstler interviews Jane Jacobs -- two of the authors I list in my column.

The website of Jim Kunstler: If you can look beyond the use of foul words for emphasis, there's a lot of food for thought here. His "Eyesore of the Month" is a photo and commentary on an example of bad architecture or urban design, and the feature is coming up on its eighth anniversary. (This month, in the spirit of the holidays, he gives us a break and presents some positive examples.)

Not mentioned in the column is the website for the Project for Public Spaces, which is full of examples of parks, squares, plazas, and streetscapes that work well, with explanations of why they succeed at attracting people. (New York City's Bryant Park is a great example of a once-failed public space that is now thriving.) There are also examples of failed public spaces, like Boston's hideous City Hall Plaza, which replaced lively, unruly Scollay Square.


David said:

Unruly Scollay Square may have been, but it was a lot more fun than Gobernment Center! David Kruh

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 30, 2005 11:35 PM.

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