Smart Urbanism Reading List

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A continuing discussion started by Rick Robinson on SU LinkedIn.

I have taken the liberty of creating a full reading list of books recommended by a whole range of people through the course of this valuable discussion. Names of those who have contributed are included at the end and their initials included in square brackets on every book where relevant. A number of new recommendations are also added.

The first thing that surprised me was how little original thinking has taken place in the sphere of urbanism in recent years but how much we can draw from other sources in other fields of endeavour.

The Web makes it easy to find all of the books, journals and articles below, so taking a clue from John Maeda’s book The Laws of Simplicity’ (2006), I have avoided the practice of a bibliographic entry for each item. Rather, I list these below as valuable source material and inspiration. Thank you Rick.

      1. ‘Massive Small: The Operating System for Smart Urbanism’ by Kelvin Campbell (2009).
        How the collective power of many small ideas and actions can make a big difference to planning, designing and delivering our cities. The book that kicked off this group [RR]
      2. ‘Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back’ by Andrew Zolli.
        An exploration of the characteristic behaviours of social, economic and ecological systems that are resilient to change and adverse events. [RR]
      3. ‘Collapse’ by Jared Diamond.
        A discussion of examples of societies through history that have responded successfully or unsuccessfully to severe environmental stress. [RR]
      4. ‘The Death and Life of American Cities’ by Jane Jacobs (1961)
        Often recommended in learning about cities and urbanism. The old lady knew more than we realised. [KC] [RR]
      5. ‘Motivation and Personality’ by Abraham Maslow (1970)
        What really motivates us. [KC]
      6. ‘Technics and Civilisation’ by Lewis Mumford (1963)
        Words ahead of the time. [KC]
      7. ‘New Theory of Urban Design’ by Christopher Alexander (1987)
        Still a benchmark for thinking about urban design. [KC]
      8. ‘The Long Tail’ by Chris Anderson (2006)
        The editor of Wired magazine with his finger on the button. [KC]
      9. ‘The New Economy’ by Kevin Kelly (2007)
        On the power of social networks. [KC]
      10. ‘The Politics of Universal Compassion’ by Joel Federman (2002)
        On cynicism and optimism in modern life. [KC]
      11. ‘Small is Beautiful’ by EF Schumacher (1973)
        A study of economics as if people mattered. [KC]
      12. ‘Plandemonium’ by Rob Cowan (2010)
        Brilliant insight into the failure of modern planning. [KC]
      13. ‘Clone Towns Report’ by New Economics Foundation (2004)
        The state of our high streets. [KC]
      14. ‘A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain’ by Owen Hatherly (2010)
        Our Pevsner for the 21st century. [KC]
      15. ‘Death of Common Sense’ by Philip Howard (1995)
        The truths behind unintended consequences. [KC]
      16. ‘Emergence, The Connected lives of Ants, Brains and Cities’ by Steven Johnson (2001)
        Great insight into self organising systems. Probably the best on emergent urbanism. [KC] [AH]
      17. ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell (2002)
        When does the paradigm shift. [KC]
      18. ‘Re:Urbanism’ by Kelvin Campbell and Rob Cowan (2002)
        The book that kicked this all off and still rings true. [KC]
      19. ‘The Laws of Simplicity’ by John Maeda (2006)
        Keeping it simple. [KC]
      20. ‘Disabling Professions’ by Ivan Illich (1978)
        Reminds us why we need to change. [KC]
      21. ‘Notes on the Synthesis of Form’ by Christopher Alexander (1964)
        Ideas on generative methods in architecture. [KC] [RR]
      22. ‘The Dictionary of Urbanism’ by Rob Cowan (2005)
        Where you can always find insight and humour. [KC]
      23. ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ by James Surowiecki (2004)
        The power of the group. [KC]
      24. ‘Conceptualizing the Principles of Emergent Urbanism’ by Mathieu Hélie (2009)
        Flying the banner for emergence. [KC]
      25. ‘The Emergence Of Cities: Complexity And Urban Dynamics’ by Michael Batty (2003)
        The mechanics of emergence. [KC]
      26. ‘What is Complexity Science, Really?’ By Steven Phelan (2004)
        Getting back to the real science. [KC]
      27. ‘Emergence: From Chaos to Order’ by John Holland (1998)
        Cities as patterns in time. [KC]
      28. ‘Smart Swarm’ by Peter Miller (2010)
        How we can learn from nature. [KC]
      29. ‘The Paradox of Choice’ by Barry Schwartz (2005)
        Why less choice is more.
      30. ‘Nudge’ by Cass Sunstein and economist Richard Thaler (2008):
        How to structure complex choices. [KC]
      31. ‘Whatever Happened to Urbanism’ by Rem Koolhaas (1995)
        Pure reductionism. [KC]
      32. ‘Generative Methods in Urban Design’ by Michael Mehaffy (2003)
        Brilliantly written article on Christopher Alexander versus the New Urbanists. [KC]
      33. ‘General Urban Rules’ by Alex Lehnerer (2009)
        A valuable sourcebook for method rules as tools in urban design. [KC]
      34. ‘A City is not a Tree’ by Christopher Alexander (1979)
        Thinking in semi-lattices. [KC]
      35. ‘Structuring a Generative Model for Urban Design’ by Beirão and Duarte (2007)
        Using computers to generate urban fabric. [KC]
      36. ‘Space is the Machine’ by Bill Hillier (1999)
        From science to application. [KC]
      37. ‘Making of the Modern Street’ by Group 91 (1999)
        How to subdivide for urban grain. [KC]
      38. ‘Cityplan as Resource’ by Jonathan Smyth (1989)
        Plotting the change in Savannah over the years. [KC]
      39. ‘Anatomy of the Village’ by Tom Sharp (1946)
        The tradition of Scottish town-making. [KC]
      40. ‘Diffusion of Innovation’ by Everett Rogers (1997)
        How to change a market. [KC]
      41. ‘Supports: An Alternative to Mass Housing’ by John Habraken (1972)
        Open building at different levels. [KC]
      42. ‘Urban Catalyst’ by Klaus Overmeyer (2009)
        Using urban pioneers to as an alternative development model. [KC]
      43. ‘Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution’ by David Harvey.
        Social innovation in an increasingly ‘techfix’ world. [KC] [EH] [MR]
      44. ‘Cybercities Reader’ edited by S. Graham (2004)
        As so many of the Routledge reading series has a series of seminal papers in this area. [CM]
      45. ‘A Short History of Progress’ by Ronald Wright, again in What is America?: A Short History of the New World Order, and then once more in a poignant interview with fellow author and journalist Chris Hedges in ‘The Myth of Human Progress’. [KC]
      46. ‘The Economy of Cities’ by Jane Jacobs
        It puts economic development in a whole new light, and really helps in gaining an understanding of why land use redevelopment mega-projects can have negative economic effects, while efforts to support/finance small businesses are the only true way to grow a city’s economy. [KC]
      47. ‘Why Nations Fail’ or ‘Commonwealth’ by Jeffrey Sachs. [NF]
      48. ‘Triumph of the City’ by Ed Glaeser.
        Can lose sight of the financial forces that determine where investment is concentrated, though emphasise the importance of location that other economists miss. [NF]
      49. ‘Good Cities: Better Lives’ by Peter Hall.
        Rediscovering the lost art of urbanism. [NF]
      50. ‘Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood: Building the 21st century Home’ by Nick Falk and David Rudlin.
        Really good on housing. [NF]
      51. ‘The Plan of Chicago, Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City’ by Carl Smith 2006. [JT]
      52. ‘The City in History’ by Lewis Mumford.
        Should be essential reading. [KC] [DP]
      53. ‘Cities for a Small Planet’ and ‘Cities for a Small Country’ by Richard Rogers and Anne Powers.
        Good in parts. [DP]
      54. ‘Revitalizing Historic Urban Quarters’ by Steve Tiesdell and others. [DP]
      55. Pevsner Guides (Pevsner had some remarkable insights which are as relevant today as when he wrote) [DP]
      56. ‘The Whole Earth Catalogue’ by Stewart Brand.
        The original hippie book at the wrong time to be listened to. [KC]
      57. ‘A New Kind of Bleak’ by Owen Hatherly (2012).
        Scathing irreverence to modern architecture. [DP]
      58. ‘Welcome to the Shift Age’ by David Houle 2012.
        A perfect refresher for those who have to help them understand the reasons behind the significant changes we are now experiencing. [JT]
      59. ‘Value and Worth: Creating New Markets in the Digital Economy’ by Irene CL Ng. [RR]
      60. ‘Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers and the Quest for a New Utopia’ by Anthony Townsend – out from Norton on October 7, 2013.
        An unflinching look at the aspiring city-builders of our smart, mobile, connected future. [AT]
      61. ‘From Intelligent to Smart Cities’ by Mark Deakin and Husman Al Waer (2012). Routledge. [MF]
      62. ‘Ownership in the Hybrid City’ by Michiel de Lange and Martijn de Waal (2012)
        Virtueel Platform, Amsterdam. [MF]
      63. ‘The City as Interface’ by Martijn DE WAAL, (2012). Universidad de Groningen, Groningen.
        Digital media and the urban public sphere  [MF]
      64. ‘Citizen Apps to Solve Complex Urban Problems’ by Kevin C de Souza and Akshay Bhagwatwar (2012).
        Journal of Urban Technology. Volume 19, Issue 3, 2012. [MF]
      65. ‘From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen: Urban Informatics, Social Media’ by Marcus Foth, Laura Forlano, Christine Satchell and Martin Gibbs (eds.)  MIT Press, Cambridge. (2011).
        Ubiquitous Computing, and Mobile Technology to Support Citizen Engagement, [MF]
      66. ‘Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing’ by Adam Greenfield, (2006)
        New Riders Publishing, Berkeley. [MF]
      67. ‘Situated Technologies Pamphlets 1: Urban Computing and its Discontents’ by Adam Greenfield and Mark Shepard (2007)
        The Architectural League of New York, New York. [MF]
      68. ‘Will the Real Smart City Please Stand Up? Intelligent, Progressive or Entrepreneurial?’ by Robert G Hollands (2008).
        Journal of Urban Technology. Volume 12,Issue 3, 2008. [MF]
      69. ‘Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life’ by Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge (2011). MIT Press, Cambridge. [MF]
      70. ‘City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn’ by William Mitchell, (1996), MIT Press, Cambridge. [MF]
      71. ‘Connected Sustainable Cities’ by William J Mitchell and Federico Casalegno (2008).
        MIT Mobile Experience Lab Publishing, Cambridge. [MF]
      72. ‘Smart Cities as Innovation Ecosystems Sustained by the Future Internet’, FIREBALL White Paper by Hans Schaffers, Nicos Komninos and Marc Pallot (eds.) (2012). [MF]
      73. ‘Sentient City. Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Space’ by Mark Shepard (2011), MIT Press, Cambridge. [MF]
      74. ‘Adaptation: Can cities be Climate-proofed?’ by Eric Klinenberg
        This is an article in the New Yorker that speaks to the importance of social structures in creating resilient communities- you can’t just rely on pipes and pavement. Really influential in the States right now. [FY]
      75. ’Urban Sprawl and Public Health’ by Richard Jackson, et al.
        This is a seminal book looking directly at the relationship between suburban development patterns and the health of our communities. Well written and hugely important. [FY]
      76. ‘Sustainable Urbanism’ by Doug Farr.
        A nice summary of the field, with many excellent examples of progressive community design. [FY]
      77. ‘Carbon Zero: Imagining Cities That Can Save The Planet’ by Alex Steffen
        A free e-book and a great summary of the field. [FY]
      78. ‘Ecological Urbanism’ by Ed. Mostafahvi
        An amazing resource- all the major thinkers in the field contributed to this incredible tome. [FY]
      79. ‘Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives’ by Carolyn Steel.
        Lots of UK folks on this list and her particular focus is London so definitely check this out. [FY]
      80. ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ by Michael Pollan.
        A great entry point for thinking about food systems and communities. [FY]
      81. ‘Family and Kinship in East London’ by Michael Young and Peter Wilmot.
        It was seminal work loved and reviled in equal part but opened insights to the need to take the human factor into account and not treat regeneration as a physical exercise. Also see the review here. [JW]
      82. ‘The Economics of Place’ by Eds Colleen Layton, Tawny Pruit and Kim Cekola.
        Reminding us of the value of building places around people. [MA]
      83. ‘All Business is Local’ by John Quelch and Katherine Jocz.
        Why place matters more than ever in a global virtual world. [MA]
      84. ‘The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City’ by Alan Ehrenhalt.
        How the desire for a quality urbanism is bringing people back to US downtowns. [MA]
      85. ‘Rediscovering the Wealth of Places’ by Greg Baeker.
        Municipal cultural planning handbook for Canadian communities. [MA]
      86. ‘Making Sense of Place’ by Chris Murray
        New approaches to place marketing.
      87. ‘The London Encyclopedia’ (3rd edition), by Ben Weinreb, Christopher Hibbert, Julia Keay and John Keay.
        Reminding us that a great city is a comprehensive menu of memories, activities, spaces, buildings, people and experiences. [MA]
      88. ‘Small Town Rules’ by Barry Moltz and Becky McCray.
        A great essay on how big brands and small businesses can prosper in a connected economy even in small places. [MA]
      89. ‘The Art of Placemaking’ by Ronald Lee Fleming.
        Interpreting and developing the concept of community through public art and urban design. [MA]
      90. ‘City – A Guidebook for the Urban Age’ by Peter D Smith.
        A timely reminder of the lessons from history on the development of cities. [MA]
      91. ‘Brandscapes’ by Anna Klingman.
        On the importance of architecture in the experience economy. [MA]
      92. ‘Place Reinvention’ by Eds Torill Nyseth and Arvid Viken.
        How places are being reinvented through the interplay of industrial developments, changing patterns of consumer consumption and behaviour, the information economy and the power of new technologies. [MA]


      1. ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly’ by Rolf Dobelli.
        Brilliant on challenging the established truths in an upside down world. [KC]
      2. ‘Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another’ by Philip Ball (2004).
        Makes science seem so understandable in making better societies. [KC]
      3. ‘Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order’ by Stephen Strogatz.
        Bit techie but the last chapter is relevant. [KC]
      4. ‘Critical Cities’ by Deepa Naik and Trenton Oldfield.
        Ideas, knowledge and agitation from emerging urbanists. [KC]
      5. ‘Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life (Princeton Studies in Complexity)’ by John Miller and Scott Page.
        Probably the best book on complexity by the guys from the Santa Fe Institute that has direct relevance to emerging cities. [KC]
      6. ‘The Norm Principles’ by Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter.
        Stories about numbers and danger, showing a fresh understanding of risk, statistics and probability. [KC]
      7. ‘Information is Beautiful’ by David McCandless.
        Just beautiful information. [KC]


Recommended by:

[RR]: Rick Robinson

[KC]: Kelvin Campbell

[AH]: Andrew Hoare

[CM]: Claudia Murray

[GW]: Garlynn Woodsong

[NF]: Nicolas Falk

[AT]: Anthony Townsend

[DP]: David Proudlove

[JT]: John Tomassi

[MF]: Manu Fernandez

[FY]: Frank Yetsuh

[JW]: John Walls

[EH]: Eline Hanson

[MR]: Mike Reardon

[MA]: Malcolm Allan


Posted on September 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

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About the Author

Kelvin was the founder of Urban Initiatives, an internationally recognised urban design practice based in London. Formerly Visiting Professor in Urban Design at the University of Westminster and now a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at the Bartlett, University College London, he is known as one of the leading figures in his field. He has written government policy on urban design, published numerous books and articles on the subject, regularly speaks at conferences and has advised a number of cities on design matters. He has passionate interest in the future of cities and towns, in particular the development of new thinking and processes which unlock good urbanism and effective civic leadership. In 2013 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Urban Design Awards for his contribution to the profession and was later awarded the 1851 Royal Commission Fellowship in the Built Environment.
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