The informal education of a budding urbanist

If you live in a city, chances are you’re intimately familiar (and grumpy, mostly) about the nature of transport, housing, etc. Or at least, that was my personal experience. Choosing to engage in the complex issues of city life has led me down a rabbit hole I didn’t quite expect — but in a wonderful way. I’ll probably publish my (very rough) notes and thoughts at some point, but for now, a (short) list of resources that have helped form my newfound interest and that I hope will be of help to you, should you choose to jump down the rabbit hole with me.

  • The Death and Life of American Cities by Jane Jacobs — this is the canonical modern city planning book, and for good reason. Jacobs has an undertone of annoyance in this book, but it’s only reasonable. So much of city planning in the past has lead to unproductive design seeking to benefit just a wealthy few.
  • Walkable City by Jeff Speck — this, with the book above, is the 1-2 punch that got me interested in urbanism. This book is shorter Jacobs’ and does an excellent job arguing for shared streets between pedestrians, bikers and car drivers.
  • Strong Towns — an excellent community with an active Slack group, large archive of posts from members who attack city planning from all kinds of angles. Stop the Stroads!
  • Market Urbanism — another great community with a Facebook group and wealth of articles centering around bottom-up solutions to urban development.
  • Parksify — a short podcast, published weekly, to discuss urban public spaces and their impact on communities.
  • YIMBY — if you’re SF-based, a pro-housing voting group that’s quite active. (Yes In My Back Yard vs NIMBYs)
  • Urban planning-based publications such as CityLab, Guardian Cities
  • NUMTOT — my favorite group on Facebook with excellent memes.

More one-off things that have piqued my interest:

  • Dan Wang’s essay on California. I’m still trying to figure out how identity is shaped around living somewhere and how that shifts when you move between places.
  • Paolo Soleri’s idea of Arcologies — how do we build super dense, compact urban spaces that amplify the power of community? In particular, I’m interested in Arcosanti.