New And Notable: Smart Growth Manual, “Unplanning,” & Asphalt And Politics

Everyone is calling for smart growth…but what exactly is it?

In The Smart Growth Manual (New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2009), two leading city planners provide a thorough answer. From the expanse of the metropolis to the detail of the window box, they address the pressing challenges of urban development with easy-to-follow advice and broad array of best practices.

With their landmark book Suburban Nation, Andres Duany and Jeff Speck “set forth more clearly than anyone has done in our time the elements of good town planning” (The New Yorker).

In this long-awaited companion volume, the authors have organized the latest contributions of new urbanism, green design, and healthy communities into a comprehensive handbook, fully illustrated with the built work of the nation’s leading practitioners.

This work also features a valuable Smart Growth Directory, with contact information for national, regional and state organizations.

Lieutenant Governor-Elect Gavin Newsom, writing as Mayor of San Francisco, touted The Smart Growth Manual as “an indispensable guide to city planning. This kind of progressive development is the only way to full restore our economic strength and create new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete in the first rank of world economies.”

An extensive interview with the authors is featured on the American Society of Landscape Architects “The Dirt” blog.

The conventional wisdom says that we need strict planning to build walkable neighborhoods around transit stations – even though these neighborhoods are like the streetcar suburbs that were common in America before anyone heard of city planning.

In reality, many of our greatest successes in urban design have occurred when we treated the issues as political questions – not as technical problems that the planners should solve for us.

According to Unplanning: Livable Cities And Political Choices (Berkeley, Calif.: Preservation Institute, 2010), the anti-freeway movement of the 1960s and 1970s and the anti-sprawl movement of recent decades were both political movements, and citizen-activists often had to work against projects that planners proposed and approved.

This book uses an intriguing thought experiment to show that, in order to build livable cities, we should go further than the anti-freeway and anti-sprawl movements by putting direct political limits on urban growth.

Political choices about how we want to live can transform our cities more effectively than planning.

From animal paths to superhighways, transportation has been the backbone of American expansion and growth.

Asphalt And Politics: A History Of The American Highway System (New York: McFarland, 2009) examines the interstate highway system in the United States, and the forces that shaped it, includes the introduction of the automobile, the Good Roads Movement, and the Lincoln Highway Association.

The book offers an analysis of state and federal road funding, modern road-building options, and the successes and failures of the current highway system.