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Thread: Any good books on North American / Canadian Urban Planning?

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    Cyburbian jameshansenbc's avatar
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    Langley, BC, Canada
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    Any good books on North American / Canadian Urban Planning?

    Hi all,

    Can anyone recommend any good books on city planning in North America as a whole? I have bought Planning in the USA as recommended elsewhere on this forum and am still waiting for it to come in the mail. Really looking for a good book that shows how cities, specifically those on a grid system, can be effectively built, developed, radically changed, perhaps with some history on the choices made by urban planners today and reasoning behind it. I'm hoping that Planning in the USA covers some of this at least, but I would like a broader North American, or even a Canadian perspective since I live in Canada.

    I really would just to learn more about effective city planning, what works, what doesn't, plus a bit of history basically.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian jameshansenbc's avatar
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    Langley, BC, Canada
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    Thought I'd bump my own thread to give a bit of an update on this.

    So far I have read two books - A Better Place to Live: Reshaping the American Suburb by Philip Langdon (which I found recommended by Dan in this thread when searching for good books, thanks!) , and Planning in the USA which I saw mentioned in a few places on here.

    Most of the topics mentioned are "cross compatible" with Canada. To give a short review, A Better Place to Live was a real pleasure to read, a great book in my opinion and very clearly explains many of the problems. It's largely an opinion piece though, but it's opinions you can see the logic in and agree with. Despite being written in 1994 sadly many of the issues that are raised, such as the noisy, congested arterial roads and ugly buildings along them, still exist to this day, in fact where I currently live is the epitome of the "Car Town" example he gives in the book. That being said, he presents some good solutions to the problems, which follow on well from the effective and clear arguments made.

    Planning in the USA on the other hand is more like a textbook. It is laid out and organized well for easy reference. It has more general history about how certain practises came about in planning, which is what I was originally looking for. The detail in the topics varies a lot, I found the section on grid (or, as it calls it, gridiron) planning extremely short (3-4 paragraphs), which surprised me as it one of the fundamental things many cities are based upon in North America. However the important ideas for actual city development, such as density bonuses, I found very interesting and thorough.

    In both books there were examples of improvements to places I had actually been to just across the border, A Better Place to Live mentions Bellevue, WA in detail, explaining how they created a good downtown from what was previously just a seattle suburb, and Planning in the USA mentions Seattle itself, and the public plazas in the Washington Mutual Tower (which happens to be one of my favourite buildings in the Seattle downtown).

    Still hoping to find more books, it would be nice to find something that at least gives Canada a mention, but since everything is mostly the same anyway when it comes to planning this doesn't appear to be as important as I first expected.

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