100 Essential Books of Planning: Decade Six


Planning had become so well established that first critiques emerged in the 1960s. Planning's history captured the interest of both professionals and the general public. And, planners continued to refine the practice and tussle with the place of planning in a political world.

The Image of the City

Kevin Lynch

A book that appears on almost every planner's list of essential books, this work is still in use almost 50 years later. Lynch argued that people create mental maps of their surroundings with five key features: paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks. He also introduced the terms wayfinding and imageability into the discourse, influencing the way people think and talk about urban space.

The Citizen's Guide to Planning

Herbert H. Smith

One of the first books addressed to planning commissioners and their role. Smith helped both citizens and appointed officials understand the basics of planning. He untangled the different roles of planning commissioners and professionals and examined topics such as the master plan, capital improvement programs, zoning, and the regulation of land subdivision. In this classic, he offers a highly personal insider's account of the real world of the planning process.

The City in History

Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects
Lewis Mumford

Winner of the 1961 National Book Award, Mumford's book traces the development of cities from ancient Greece and Rome to the modern forms of suburb and megalopolis. Mumford describes the genesis of cities and analyzes their purpose in a sweeping narrative that proposes a more "organic" and humane relationship between people and their environment. Mumford helped popularize planning for the general public through his Skyline feature in The New Yorker.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs

A writer with no formal training in architecture or planning, Jacobs dared to write what she called "an attack on current city planning and rebuilding" that set out new, more human, principles for city planning. The result has become one of the must-read books of the planning profession. Empirical and highly readable, this book is based on Jacobs's observations about city life. She observed what made streets safe or unsafe, what constituted a neighborhood, and what function a neighborhood served within the larger organism of a city. She analyzed why some neighborhoods remained impoverished while others regenerated.

Silent Spring

Rachel Carson

Carson brought environmental concerns into the mainstream with this book on the harmful effects of pesticides on mosquitoes and birds. Widely credited for spurring the environmental movement, Carson's work inspired planners to consider the importance of environmental protection in their daily lives and in urban development projects.

The Urban Villagers

Group and Class in the Life of Italian-Americans
Herbert Gans

Gans, a sociologist and city planner, told the story of Boston's West End working-class Italian-American community. He illustrated the importance of family and neighborhood, taking a captivating anthropological view of a distinctly urban environment. The sociology of how people live in cities and interact with their environment was an influential thread in planning literature.

The Federal Bulldozer

A Critical Analysis of Urban Renewal, 1949-1962
Martin Anderson

This book signaled a turn away from the idealistic "tear down and build new and better" approach to city planning. Anderson's early history of urban renewal detailed the mechanisms and legislation used to push the program forward, showing how its idealistic goals quickly gave way to destruction for its own sake. Anderson became a domestic policy adviser to Presidents Nixon and Reagan.

The Urban General Plan

T.J. Kent, Jr.

In a contemporary review of the book, Kenneth L. Kraemer noted that the philosophy of planning had evolved. Planning was now more comprehensive and seen as "multi-layered matrixes." The goal of planning was no longer an ideal state, but "an activity stream relating to problems and goal definition, program design ... and evaluation." Kent exemplified the change and provided a history of the use, characteristics, and purpose of the urban comprehensive plan, and how it was currently being applied.

The Making of Urban America

A History of Planning in the United States
John Reps

Over the years, Reps's expansive studies have looked at the original plans of all types of communities in the United States. In addition, he examined how key cities and towns developed in their first decades and followed up with more intensive regional studies. This comprehensive history of early American town and city development is filled with detailed drawings and maps outlining how America urbanized.

The Zoning Game

Municipal Practices and Policies
Richard Babcock

A. Dan Tarlock writes: "The Zoning Game caught the crest of the emergence of local land-use controls from a marginal subject of interest ... to a major national issue in the 1970s." It was twice cited by the U.S. Supreme Court. The book proposes sensible reforms to one of the earliest tools of planning and also provides a critique, asking whether zoning as it is practiced really promotes its stated goals. Babcock believed that zoning, when done correctly, was a critical means of implementing land use decisions that benefited the community as a whole.

Design of Cities

Edmund Bacon

Bacon's powerful urban design concepts shaped Philadelphia, where he had as much influence as Daniel Burnham in Chicago and Robert Moses in New York. A planner, architect, architectural historian, and theorist, Bacon relates the international work of great city designers through the ages to the contemporary city, with illustrative examples.

Design with Nature

Ian McHarg

This pioneering, inspirational work on environmental planning was notable for its use of map overlays to identify land development constraints. An influential landscape architect who spoke to planners, McHarg showed how to achieve the ideal fit between built environments and natural surroundings.

American City Planning Since 1890

A History Commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the American Institute of Planners
Mel Scott

Not only was this book invaluable in developing this essential books list, it is the standard text on American city planning history up to 1969. Scott helped illuminate the intellectual as well as the practical develops in the field drawing clear paths from the Progressive and sanitary movements to the planning in the postwar eras.

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