100 books like A New Theory of Urban Design

By Christopher Alexander,

Here are 100 books that A New Theory of Urban Design fans have personally recommended if you like A New Theory of Urban Design. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Michael Batty Author Of The Computable City: Histories, Technologies, Stories, Predictions

From my list on cities that are not what they seem.

Why am I passionate about this?

There are as many ways of thinking about cities as there are people who live in them, and by the end of this century, it is clear we will all be living in cities of one size or another. Cities are in effect the crucibles where all technological and cultural change takes place. They are the drivers of prosperity while also the harbingers of chaos, decline, and war. What makes them fascinating is that as soon as we begin to peel back the layers that compose the city, our understanding of them begins to change: they metamorphose into different conceptions where there is no agreement as to what they are or what they might become.

Michael's book list on cities that are not what they seem

Michael Batty Why did Michael love this book?

Often hailed as the greatest book on cities ever, Jane Jacob’s critique of modernism and the rapid spreading out of the city through urban sprawl goes to the heart of what cities are all about. Her description of New York and other North American cities in terms of their diversity and cultural richness elevates the way we build our cities from the bottom up in the face of modernist planning that imposes an artificial order from the top down.

Her book is not only a critique of planning but a logic of how we should understand the complexity of cities as they continue to evolve and embrace new technologies.

By Jane Jacobs,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Death and Life of Great American Cities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this classic text, Jane Jacobs set out to produce an attack on current city planning and rebuilding and to introduce new principles by which these should be governed. The result is one of the most stimulating books on cities ever written.

Throughout the post-war period, planners temperamentally unsympathetic to cities have been let loose on our urban environment. Inspired by the ideals of the Garden City or Le Corbusier's Radiant City, they have dreamt up ambitious projects based on self-contained neighbourhoods, super-blocks, rigid 'scientific' plans and endless acres of grass. Yet they seldom stop to look at what actually…

Book cover of The Concise Townscape

Rasmus Wærn Author Of What is Architecture? And 100 Other Questions

From my list on what architecture is about.

Why am I passionate about this?

My lifelong search for how contemporary architecture can be as loved and graceful as the buildings and environments of our heritage have made me create numerous books, lectures, and films on matters I find crucial. But every new text seems to create more questions than answers. Perhaps it is better to build the talk? Architecture has dimensions, such as time, that make the reading richer than most books. But that brings you back to interpretation. It seems as books and buildings will be impossible to separate. At least for me.

Rasmus' book list on what architecture is about

Rasmus Wærn Why did Rasmus love this book?

Townscape is more than a book on how good cities are shaped. It is a book that describes generic qualities of space.

Cullens's way of understanding and analyzing urban structures with pen and paper has much to tell future architects. That the book has been around for more than sixty years is a compelling evidence of its outstanding capacity to educate generation after generation on how to create richness and avoid chaos.

Urban planners of today have much to learn from Cullen’s simple, but efficient, drawings and captions. 

By Gordon Cullen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Concise Townscape as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book pioneered the concept of townscape. 'Townscape' is the art of giving visual coherence and organization to the jumble of buildings, streets and space that make up the urban environment. It has been a major influence on architects, planners and others concerned with what cities should look like.

Book cover of The Image of the City

Matthew Carmona Author Of Public Places Urban Spaces: The Dimensions of Urban Design

From my list on urban design books that inspired me.

Why am I passionate about this?

Looking at the books I have chosen, one might say they are all rather long in the tooth. They are, yet they are also the books that inspired me to do what I do today which is to teach and research the subject of urban design. I am a Professor of Planning and Urban Design at The Bartlett, UCL and firmly believe that understanding a subject like my own begins from the foundations upwards. Each of these classic texts represents part of those foundations, foundations that my own work attempts to build upon. 

Matthew's book list on urban design books that inspired me

Matthew Carmona Why did Matthew love this book?

This third selection was published contemporaneously with the first two, but while the first two are really polemics, this book reports on empirical research. Perhaps because of that, it may seem a little dry, but the messages it has for us about the way we perceive cities are profound (albeit they have since been challenged). If you want to understand urban design then Kevin Lynch’s body of work is a must, and this is the best place to start.  

By Kevin Lynch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Image of the City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic work on the evaluation of city form.

What does the city's form actually mean to the people who live there? What can the city planner do to make the city's image more vivid and memorable to the city dweller? To answer these questions, Mr. Lynch, supported by studies of Los Angeles, Boston, and Jersey City, formulates a new criterion—imageability—and shows its potential value as a guide for the building and rebuilding of cities. The wide scope of this study leads to an original and vital method for the evaluation of city form. The architect, the planner, and certainly…

Book cover of Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space

Conrad Kickert Author Of Dream City: Creation, Destruction, and Reinvention in Downtown Detroit

From my list on the exciting life of cities.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in a Dutch city, I vividly remember witnessing the excitement of urban life through the windows of a streetcar, on foot, or by bike. Soon, I began to recreate this excitement by drawing maps of imaginary cities of my own. My small towns turned into entire regions, their streets coming to life as I closed my eyes. I essentially turned my childhood fascination into my job, as I now study, design, and teach students how to improve cities. Our best cities are places where citizens can interact with one another, overcoming social, economic, and environmental evolutions and revolutions. I never cease to be fascinated with the key to these everlasting cities.

Conrad's book list on the exciting life of cities

Conrad Kickert Why did Conrad love this book?

Key to understanding cities is also to know how people experience them. Thousands of miles away but only a few years after Jacobs’ manifesto, Danish architect and urban designer Jan Gehl fascinatingly describes how people experience and behave in cities. We can use Gehl’s psychological and experiential lens to improve our urban environment, not designing buildings and cities just to appease other designers, politicians, or developers, but to real end users. Gehl’s original work has been translated into dozens of languages and expanded into one of the world’s foremost urban design firms. As an urban designer and researcher, Gehl’s book reminds me every day to focus first on people, then on space, and only then on buildings. 

By Jan Gehl,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Life Between Buildings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first Danish language version of this book, published in 1971, was very much a protest against the functionalistic principles for planning cities and residential areas that prevailed during that period. The book carried an appeal to show concern for the people who were to move about between buildings, and it urged an understanding of the subtle, almost indefinable - but definite - qualities, which have always related to the interaction of people in public spaces, and it pointed to the life between buildings as a dimension of architecture that needs to be carefully treated. Now 40 years later, many…

Book cover of Pacific Natural at Home

Chase Reynolds Ewald and Heather Sandy Hebert Author Of At Home in the Wine Country: Architecture & Design in the California Vineyards

From my list on design on inspired living on the West Coast.

Why are we passionate about this?

At Home in the Wine Country coauthors Heather and Chase love the open, nature-focused attitude toward living that California does so well. Heather worked in the field of architecture for 25 years and is the author of The New Architecture of Wine. Chase has been a western lifestyle writer for 30 years and is the author of 14 books, including Modern Americana, American Rustic, Cabin Style, and Bison. As writers and consultants they work with publishers, magazines, and design, hospitality and wine clients to craft and convey their stories. Heather and Chase live in spectacularly scenic Marin County, halfway between San Francisco and California's iconic wine country.

Chase's book list on design on inspired living on the West Coast

Chase Reynolds Ewald and Heather Sandy Hebert Why did Chase love this book?

Jenny Kayne personifies the easy, laid-back approach to design and life that is so characteristic of California. Comfort plays a role equal to that of style, which is always organic, natural, and textural. Jenni Kayne's style leans toward a neutral palette that embraces and accentuates the light, color, and texture of the California landscape. She shares work from her own home, as well as homes of other creative women who share her natural design ethos.

By Jenni Kayne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pacific Natural at Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A known tastemaker and authority on style, Jenni Kayne spans the worlds of fashion, interiors, and entertaining. Inspired by organic textures, thoughtful simplicity, and natural landscapes, Kayne embodies an earthy and effortless aesthetic one that is intentional and where beauty and authenticity exist in every detail. In her second book Kayne turns to interior design, sharing her beautifully designed interiors as well as the homes of other creative women who embrace a similar natural design ethos. The book introduces the homes by location, spanning varied landscapes and design characteristics: houses by the ocean, desert-style spaces, mountain homes, and abodes in…

Book cover of Mr. Palomar

Janet Sternburg Author Of Janet Sternburg - I've Been Walking

From my list on discovering how to see.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a writer and a late-life fine arts photographerFor eight years I had been writing a book set in the personal and historical past. I would sit at the computer, shut my eyes, and say to myself, “Go deeper.” Eventually, I was able to recall long-forgotten details. When I looked up from those years of writing, the memoir, entitled Phantom Limb, was finished and being published. However, I discovered that I could no longer see – really see – what was around me. Along the way, I had lost that alert attention to the way light falls, to colors that used to hit me between the eyes. I felt the loss deeply. I’ve always loved to look. I had to do something to summon it back.

Janet's book list on discovering how to see

Janet Sternburg Why did Janet love this book?

Mr. Palomar, the hero, is named for the great observatory in California, and he, Mr. Palomar, is the Great Observer. He walks, he wonders about what he sees, and how, in a miraculous universe, such a thing could exist. It’s not a page-turner. It’s a page stopper. I savored each page, seeing the smallest thing – a rock, for example -- as Mr.Palomar sees it. Then I suggest that you put the book down, go out into the world, and see everything as an object of wonder.

By Italo Calvino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mr. Palomar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mr Palomar is a delightful eccentric whose chief activity is looking at things. He is seeking knowledge; 'it is only after you have come to know the surface of things that you can venture to seek what is underneath'. Whether contemplating a fine cheese, a hungry gecko, a woman sunbathing topless or a flight of migrant starlings, Mr Palomar's observations render the world afresh.

Book cover of Eating Animals

Shadi Bartsch Author Of The Aeneid (Translated by Shadi Bartsch)

From my list on the meaning of life and the books that helped me find mine.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a professor of Classics at the University of Chicago, I’m conditioned to inquire into the meaning of life! But also, I was raised in many different countries and cultures—the UK, Iran, Fiji, Indonesia, Switzerland, the US, plus recent stints studying in China—so I’ve sampled a stewpot of worldviews. The result is that I have a passion for this topic. But I am no truth-telling guru myself (except that I know that dogs are GOOD). I can only speak about the meaning of life for me and hope it will make sense to others. These books have helped me construct that meaning.

Shadi's book list on the meaning of life and the books that helped me find mine

Shadi Bartsch Why did Shadi love this book?

What is the meaning of life? We could take the question further by disposing of our blinkers and asking, what is the meaning of the other lives that may not look like ours? These lives consist of the millions of animals who die in the factory farms built to conceal their suffering and turn them into fungible objects, not lives. Safran’s book is an eye-opening exposition of how we have enslaved animals for food that we don’t even need in the 21st century—damaging ourselves and the environment in the process. One meaning of life: the value of letting other lives have meaning too.

By Jonathan Safran Foer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eating Animals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To reduce risk of pandemics for ourselves, our gaze needs to turn to the health of animals. Discover Jonathan Safran Foer's eye-opening and life-changing account of the meat we eat.

'Should be compulsory reading. A genuine masterwork. Read this book. It will change you' Time Out

Eating Animals is the most original and urgent book on the subject of food written this century. It will change the way you think, and change the way you eat. For good.

Whether you're flirting with veganuary, trying to cut back on animal consumption, or a lifelong meat-eater, you need to read this book.…

Book cover of Pedagogy of the Oppressed

David Delmar Sentíes Author Of What We Build with Power: The Fight for Economic Justice in Tech

From my list on advocates of economic justice.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an artist, activist, and social entrepreneur. Latino bilingüe and history nerd. I’m the Founder of Resilient Coders, a free and stipended nonprofit coding bootcamp that trains people of color for careers as software engineers. I built that organization for the same reason I write: I care about the economic wellness of Black and Latinx people. I want my neighbors to have the purchasing power to keep my local bodega open. They carry my coffee. Whole Foods doesn’t.

David's book list on advocates of economic justice

David Delmar Sentíes Why did David love this book?

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire makes claims so bold, and so revolutionary, that the book was banned in much of the Global South during the era of dictatorships in the 70s.

One of the central ideas was this: The oppressed are as capable and as intelligent as their oppressors. They need not be treated as requiring “help” or “guidance,” which are dynamics that can lend themselves to inequitable power constructs.

This worldview, in which one group of people is needed in order to “save” another group of people, is the intellectual foundation from which we’ve built systems of oppression throughout history. If one person’s liberation is dependent on another person’s choice, they can never be equals.

This is the book upon which we built Resilient Coders. 

By Paulo Freire,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Pedagogy of the Oppressed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in Portuguese in 1968, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was translated and published in English in 1970. Paulo Freire's work has helped to empower countless people throughout the world and has taken on special urgency in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is ongoing. This 50th anniversary edition includes an updated introduction by Donaldo Macedo, a new afterword by Ira Shor and interviews with Marina Aparicio Barberan, Noam Chomsky, Ramon Flecha, Gustavo Fischman, Ronald David Glass, Valerie Kinloch, Peter Mayo, Peter McLaren…

Book cover of Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge

Sam Kean Author Of The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science

From my list on the wonders of biology.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sam Kean is the New York Times bestselling author of five books, including The Bastard Brigade, The Dueling Neurosurgeons, and The Disappearing Spoon. He edited The Best American Nature and Science Writing in 2018, and his stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, and Slate. His work has been featured on NPR’s “Radiolab,” “Science Friday,” “All Things Considered,” and “Fresh Air,” and his podcast, The Disappearing Spoon, debuted at #1 on the iTunes charts for science podcasts.

Sam's book list on the wonders of biology

Sam Kean Why did Sam love this book?

The ultimate big-picture book. Wilson outlines how fields like history and the humanities can incorporate insights from biology and the study of human nature—to the benefit of both science and the arts. A bracing look at the future of human knowledge.

By Edward O. Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Consilience as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this groundbreaking new book, one of the world's greatest living scientists argues for the fundamental unity of all knowledge and the need to search for what he calls consilience, the composition of the principles governing every branch of learning. Edward O Wilson, the pioneer of sociobiology and biodiversity, once again breaks out of the conventions of current thinking. He shows how our explosive rise in intellectual mastery of the truths of our universe has its roots in the ancient Greek concept of an intrinsic orderliness that governs our cosmos. It is a vision that found its apogee in the…

Book cover of The Story of Philosophy

Peter S. Fosl Author Of The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods

From my list on starting out in philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a philosopher who’s taught mostly undergraduates for over thirty years at small liberal arts colleges in the US, and I’ve held research fellowships at the University of Edinburgh and Williams College. I’ve co-authored three “toolkit” books – The Philosopher’s Toolkit, The Ethics Toolkit, and The Critical Thinking Toolkit. My more scholarly work, however, has focused on skepticism, for example in Hume’s Scepticism. I also like to write about pop culture, especially for collections like my Big Lebowski and Philosophy. Fundamentally, though, I’m just a lover of dialectic and an explorer in the world of ideas. Nothing, for me, is more enjoyable.

Peter's book list on starting out in philosophy

Peter S. Fosl Why did Peter love this book?

Magee’s splendid introductory book is my go-to recommendation for those who wish to enter the world of philosophical ideas. Yes, it’s old-school in the sense that it can be annoyingly androcentric and Eurocentric. A supplement like Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting’s remarkable Philosopher Queens or Julian Baggini’s volume below should be read in tandem. Having said that, however, no one else pulls together the history of western philosophy with terse, informative, and fascinating accounts of important figures and schools as well as Magee. Plus, Magee’s text luxuriates amidst the lush, generous, and illuminating visuals that make Dorling Kindersley volumes so voluptuous. 

By Bryan Magee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Story of Philosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Explore 2,500 years of Western philosophy, from the ancient Greeks to modern thinkers, with this ultimate guide's stunning and simple approach to some of history's biggest ideas.

This essential guide to philosophy includes thoughts on our modern society, exploring science and democracy, and posing the question: where do we go from here?

Easy-to-understand text is accompanied by works of art and artifacts from history, as the big ideas and important thinkers are introduced through time. Famous quotes are highlighted, and the sidebars discuss other ideas or key works to include extra context around the theories and people.

Celebrate the world's…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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