Oculus - Spring 2014 - (Page 40)
Urban Design and Civic Engagement:
A Bibliographic Essay
BY S TA N LEY S TA RK , FA IA
ue to the interest in the new mayor's development agenda, and in recognition of AIANY
2014 President Lance Jay Brown's theme of urban
design and civic engagement, we present a range
of books, both old and new, that offer insight and
guidance on these issues.
The intense interest in urban design is a direct
response to the dramatic population shift from
exurban to urban environments in America and
much of the world. Both architecture and urban
design are highly people-centered pursuits.
Because urban design operates on a much larger
scale, it has assumed tremendous importance as a
linchpin of success for cities nationwide.
One good overview of the drive toward urbanism is Alan Ehrenhalt's The Great Inversion and
the Future of the American City (Vintage, 2013).
He examines the dynamics of urban change, how
the roles of cities and suburbs are changing places,
and the implications of a more residential city and
a more urbanized suburb.
The library of studies of urban form is
rich. Sibyl Moholy-Nagy's Matrix of Man: An
Illustrated History of Urban Environment (Pall
Mall Press, 1969), Steen Eiler Rasmussen's
Towns and Buildings (The MIT Press, 1969), and
Edmund N. Bacon's The Design of Cities (Penguin
Books, 1976) are three seminal texts on the evolution of city form.
Jan Gehl's Cities for People (Island Press, 2010)
and William H. Whyte's The Social Life of Small
Urban Spaces (Project for Public Spaces, 2001)
both study and illuminate how, at an intimate level,
people perceive the urban environment and engage
in public spaces. Both studies are observant,
insightful, and wise in their recommendations
and applications. Michael Webb's The City Square
(Watson-Guptill, 1990) examines this major focal
urban space and its many variations.
The tools, tactics, and preoccupations of urban
design, particularly its political and interpersonal
dimensions, are examined in Urban Design as
Public Policy (McGraw-Hill, 1974), by Jonathan
Barnett; The Planning Game: Lessons from Great
Cities (W.W. Norton, 2013), by Alexander Garvin;
and Urban Design for an Urban Century: Placemaking for People (Wiley, 2009), by Lance Jay
Oculus Spring 2014
Brown, David Dixon, and Oliver Gilham. All show how grand aspirations are
translated into reality.
Two clashing worldviews of the practice, conduct, and objectives of urban
design are presented in Robert Caro's The Power Broker: Robert Moses and
the Fall of New York (Vintage, 1975) and Jane Jacobs's Death and Life of the
Great American Cities (Vintage, 1992). Moses's top-down monarchial view
was ultimately thwarted by Jacobs's community-based planning approach. The
footprints created by both are large, and we yearn for a melding of both views.
Design and civic engagement come together most dramatically in the face
of an existential threat. Two versions to consider: The Resilient City: How
Modern Cities Recover from Disaster (Oxford University Press, 2005), edited
by Lawrence J. Vale and Thomas J. Campanella, explores how cities restore
themselves following a catastrophe (war, storm, cataclysmic occurrences), and
how planning, design, politics, and clashing interests interact. Beyond Zuccotti
Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space (New Village
Press, 2012), edited by Rick Bell, Lance Jay Brown, Lynn Elizabeth, and Ron
Schiffman, with contributions from 40 others, explores the definition, use, and
role of public space for freedom of assembly and expression. This study places
civic engagement back at the center of the discussion of urban design.
Stanley Stark, FAIA, is Principal, Science and Technology at Francis
Cauffman, and served as chair of the Oculus Committee from 2005 to 2007.
Civic Spirit: Civic Visions
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Spring 2014
Letter From the President
Letter From the Editor
Center for Architecture
Some Blocks Over
Opener: Open to the Public: Civic Space Now
The Search for the Soul of Cities
A Different Tale of Two Cities
Public Space Reasserts Its Political Role
Gatherings of One
Time to Welcome Woonerfs
Redesigning the Crossroads of the World
A Magical Place on the Water
How to Remember a Plague
Sustainable Models for a Just City
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Spring 2014