Top 10 Urban Planning Books

Books play an extremely vital role in every student’s life as they introduce them to a world of imagination, providing knowledge of the outside world, helps in improving reading, writing and speaking skills as well as enhancing memory and intelligence. The significance of books cannot be undermined as they not only help in broadening horizons but also acts as doorways of connecting with the world around. Below mentioned are some of the books related to Urban Planning which every Planner should read in order to enrich their knowledge and experience.

Urban Planning Books

1. Urban Planning Theory by Nigel Taylor (1945)

In this book, the author explains the changes in planning thought which have taken place since the modern systems of urban and regional planning were established in Britain and most other developed countries just after the Second World War. The main theories of planning have been outlined from the traditional view of urban planning as an exercise in physical design to the systems and rational process views of planning of the 1960s; from Marxist view of the role of planning in capitalist society in the 1970s, to theories about planning implementation and more latest views of planning as a form of communicative action.

Related: Top 20 Urban Planning Books (Of all time)

2. The image of the city by Kevin Lynch (1960)

This book explains how observers take in information of the city and use it to make mental maps. Five year study of three cities including Boston, Jersey city and Los Angeles was undertaken. The author concluded that people composed mental maps of their surroundings consisting of five basic elements. The author argues that for any given city, a corresponding set of mental images exist in the minds of the people who experience the city and five elements contribute to those images. These elements as identified by the author are paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks.

3. The Death and life of great American Cities by Jane Jacobs (1961)

This book is Jacob’s most renowned and most influential work. The author was a critic of rationalist planners of the 1950s and 1960s and so this book is a critique of urban planning policy of the 1950s which it holds responsible for the decline of numerous city neighbourhoods in the United States. She argues that the complexity of human lives in diverse communities has been overlooked and oversimplified by modernist urban planning. She also opposed large-scale urban renewal programs which involved building freeways through inner cities and in turn affected the entire neighbourhoods. She gave an important concept of “eyes on the street”.

4. Design of cities by Edmund Bacon (1967)

Edmund Bacon was the executive director of the Philadelphia City Planning commission from 1949 to 1970. He illustrated development of urban form in this book by looking into various aspects that influence city design including spatial form, interaction between humans, nature and built environment, perception of favourable environments, colour and perspective. He identified eight elements of ‘Involvement’ in Architecture and Urban Design using  Francesco Guardi’s painting Architectural Capriccio which are described as functions of the design.

5. The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects by Lewis Mumford (1972)

In this book, the author argues for a balanced world, one which is not ruled by technology but rather is in balance with nature. He idealizes what he terms as an “organic city” where culture is not taken over by technological innovation but rather prospers with it. This book examines the development and nature of the city from Egypt to Mesopotamia, Rome, Greece and the Middle Ages to the Modern world to show how the urban form has changed throughout human civilization.

6. The high cost of free parking Donald C. Shoup (2004)

In this book, the author argues that free parking has contributed to rapid urban sprawl, extravagant energy use, auto dependence and a number of other problems. He points out that Planners mandate free parking to alleviate congestion but end up distorting transportation choices, degrading the environment, damaging the economy and debasing urban design. He further proposes new ways for cities to make parking easier and driving less necessary. This includes charging fair market prices for curb parking, using the resulting revenue to pay for services in the neighborhoods that generate it, and removing zoning requirements for off-street parking.

7. The Works: Anatomy of a city by Kate Ascher (2005)

This book answers all the questions about the way things work in a modern city. It describes the technologies that keep the city functioning as well as the people who support then to make things happen. It is an interesting book as it offers a cross section of the hidden infrastructure using beautiful and innovative graphic images combined with short and clear text explanations. While New York has been taken as an example in the book, it has relevance well beyond that city’s boundaries as the systems that make a functioning metropolis are similar everywhere.

8. Green Metropolis: What the City can teach the country about true sustainability by David Owen (2009)

In this book, author argues that while people (here, Americans) think of crowded cities as ecological nightmares, yet residents of urban centers consume less oil, electricity and water than others as they live in smaller spaces, discard less trash and most importantly spend far less time in automobiles. Owen mentions that these achievements are not accidents. Spreading people thinly across the countryside may make them feel green but it doesn’t reduce the damage that is done to the environment. On the contrary, it increases the damage, while also making the problems they cause harder to see and address.

9. Cities for people by Jan Gehl (2010)

In this book, the author illustrates creating cityscapes on a human scale. He explains various methods and tools used to reconfigure unworkable cityscapes into the landscapes that he believes they should be. A focus has been laid on how to develop cities that are lively, safe, sustainable and healthy. Taking into account changing demographics and changing lifestyles, Gehl focusses on four human issues that he sees as essential for successful city planning.

10. How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality and the fight for the neighborhood by Peter Moskowitz (2017)

In this book, author describes the stages cities go through before gentrification is complete. The phenomenon has been examined through four cities including Detroit, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco. Moskowitz tries to uncover the massive, systemic forces behind gentrification and talks about the lives that are altered in the process. A very simple question of who can and cannot afford to pay the rent goes to the heart of America’s crises of race and inequality.


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4 thoughts on “Top 10 Urban Planning Books”

    1. Thank you for the query; however we only focus on book reviews and listing of urban planning books. We do not have the pdf copies, you will be required to check the availability for the same online or with the concerned publisher.

      Team Planning Tank

  1. Srabanee mishra

    Goodmorning Nancy madam.iam vey much pleased to assit u in reviewing articles on urban planning .iam working as aneAssistant prof in geography.

    1. Hello Srabanee,
      Thank you for visiting Planning Tank and leaving a comment. You can get in touch with us on [email protected] with more details such as your interest areas and if you would like to get involved with us. This will help us in providing relevant information. Have a great day ahead!

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