Introduction

Urban Design: A Social and Civic Art

Urban designers can make a strong, positive difference in the lives of the people on whose behalf they work. This book melds theory and practice to argue, however, that urban designers can only make such a difference when they understand the forces that shape people’s lives—and, in turn, the places they inhabit. (As Winston Churchill noted, the reverse is also true: places shape the lives of the people who use them.)

Much has changed in the field of urban design since the first edition of this book appeared in 2009. During the writing of the first edition, a typical day for one coauthor began with his teaching students about how American downtowns constantly change their physical form in response to shifting economic, social, and environmental forces. Later, he might meet with colleagues from across New York City to advance a green housing initiative. His day might have ended with moderating a seminar on new approaches to creating mixed-income neighborhoods. For the other coauthor, a typical morning included writing design guidelines for more walkable streets in suburban Atlanta; the afternoon might be spent preparing plans for new, mixed-use urban neighborhoods in Norfolk, Virginia, and Kansas City, Missouri; and the day might end with hammering out the draft of a talk on the benefits of urban density.

While preparing this new edition, both of us held the same jobs we had held in 2009, but our work had taken on a much more ...

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