1. The Urban Design Handbook: Techniques and Working Methods
The Pittsburgh-based firm Urban Design Associates has been in practice for nearly 40 years, over the decades accumulating quite a lot of experience in urban design. This is UDA's in-house training manual, polished and augmented for public use. If you are starting out in the urban design field, or are just curious about the methods of a successful firm, this is a good place to begin your investigations.
The first section introduces some basic principles and organizing concepts. Ideas like the "Urban X-Ray" and "Urban Assembly Kit" are easy to understand but at the same time provide a powerful means of evaluating locations and organizing the design process.
The second section, taking up one-third of the book, is a case study of the design process from beginning to site plan. It's really the heart of the manual. This section takes you through information collection, analysis, charrettes, preliminary design, negotiation, and final presentation. UDA can be justifiably proud of their work here, as the site (a housing project in Winston-Salem) was extremely challenging, yet the final plan was quite good from a number of perspectives. You get some idea of the politics, persuasion and patience necessary when working with established residents, officials, engineers and developers.
The following two sections cover pattern books and architecture. These sections are mostly about basic concepts and the firm's standardized methods, which can be dry reading. The information is sound, but presented in a rather generic way, and so is less engrossing than the earlier section. It will be of interest to students wanting to understand how one firm tackles contextual residential design.
In the extensive appendices, the roots of the manual become more apparent. These cover everything from filing system notation to line weight (how to draw a block of houses). Mainly of interest to those wanting to compare office administration procedures, students, and new UDA employees.
The Urban Design Manual delivers the goods in a concise format, focusing on UDA's methods rather than trying to encompass a variety of possible approaches. The illustrations are a treat to look at, and convey at least as much information as the text. The writing is clear and professional, yet also conversational and even a bit lighthearted. Mini "war story" vignettes in the margins bespeak the writers' understated humor. It is the first step-by-step manual of urban design (hopefully the first of many by various authors), and is valuable resource for students and practitioners.
2. Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature
Written by the chair of the LEED-Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) initiative, Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature is both an urgent call to action and a comprehensive introduction to "sustainable urbanism"--the emerging and growing design reform movement that combines the creation and enhancement of walkable and diverse places with the need to build high-performance infrastructure and buildings.
Providing a historic perspective on the standards and regulations that got us to where we are today in terms of urban lifestyle and attempts at reform, Douglas Farr makes a powerful case for sustainable urbanism, showing where we went wrong, and where we need to go. He then explains how to implement sustainable urbanism through leadership and communication in cities, communities, and neighborhoods. Essays written by Farr and others delve into such issues as:
* Increasing sustainability through density.
* Integrating transportation and land use.
* Creating sustainable neighborhoods, including housing, car-free areas, locally-owned stores, walkable neighborhoods, and universal accessibility.
* The health and environmental benefits of linking humans to nature, including walk-to open spaces, neighborhood stormwater systems and waste treatment, and food production.
* High performance buildings and district energy systems.
Enriching the argument are in-depth case studies in sustainable urbanism, from BedZED in London, England and Newington in Sydney, Australia, to New Railroad Square in Santa Rosa, California and Dongtan, Shanghai, China. An epilogue looks to the future of sustainable urbanism over the next 200 years.
At once solidly researched and passionately argued, Sustainable Urbanism is the ideal guidebook for urban designers, planners, and architects who are eager to make a positive impact on our--and our descendants'--buildings, cities, and lives.
Note: Sustainable Urbanism came out in 2008, so it's fressssssh.