The Nature of Urban Design: A New York Perspective on Resilience

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Overview


The best cities become an ingrained part of their residents’ identities.  Urban design is the key to this process, but all too often, citizens abandon it to professionals, unable to see a way to express what they love and value in their own neighborhoods. In this visually rich book, Alexandros Washburn, Chief Urban Designer of the New York Department of City Planning, redefines urban design. His book empowers urbanites and lays the foundations for a new approach to design that will help cities to prosper in an uncertain future. He asks his readers to consider how cities shape communities, for it is the strength of our communities, he argues, that will determine how we respond to crises like Hurricane Sandy, whose floodwaters he watched from his home in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Washburn draws heavily on his experience within the New York City planning system while highlighting forward-thinking developments in cities around the world. He grounds his book in the realities of political and financial challenges that hasten or hinder even the most beautiful designs. By discussing projects like the High Line and the Harlem Children’s Zone as well as examples from Seoul to Singapore, he explores the nuances of the urban design process while emphasizing the importance of individuals with the drive to make a difference in their city.

Throughout the book, Washburn shows how a well-designed city can be the most efficient, equitable, safe, and enriching place on earth. The Nature of Urban Design provides a framework for participating in the process of change and will inspire and inform anyone who cares about cities.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Sam Roberts
Mr. Washburn takes lay people on an illustrated and highly accessible tour of urban planning, from the High Line to the subway system…
Publishers Weekly
09/02/2013
Cities are engines of creation and prosperity, culture, and freedom, and perhaps New York City is the best example of this phenomenon. Few have a better perspective on urban development than architect Washburn, chief urban designer at N.Y.C.’s Department of City Planning. Concerned about the looming challenges faced by New York and other cities, such as rapid urbanization and climate change, Washburn shows how urban design can transform cities—both urban cores and their suburban marshes. Will and vision are necessary but not themselves sufficient; finance and politics pose obstacles to change. Washburn synthesizes the top-down views of Robert Moses with the more organic and democratic attitude of Jane Jacob, balancing the concerns and desires of individuals with the needs of their communities, effectively illustrating his points with examples drawn from around the world. Sensibly organized and lavishly illustrated, the book will interest all urbanites, and especially urban planners. Illus. (Oct.)
President of the Board, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy of N - Enrique Pe�alosa

"Alex Washburn shows planning in New York as it is really done: with the technical requirements, the political difficulties and the dreams. Urban leaders around the world will learn much from this insightful book about designing for greater resiliency to climate change."
Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning & Design, Harvard Univ. Gradua - Jerold Kayden

"Alex Washburn performed the miracle of writing a book about cities that appeals to experts and general readers alike. His idea of urban design is convincingly inclusive, with buildings, people, nature, infrastructure, and public space playing prominent roles."
Enrique Pe alosa

“Alex Washburn shows planning in New York as it is really done: with the technical requirements, the political difficulties and the dreams. Urban leaders around the world will learn much from this insightful book about designing for greater resiliency to climate change.”
The New York Times

"Mr. Washburn takes lay people on an illustrated and highly accessible tour of urban planning, from the High Line to the subway system, which, he explains, emits little more in greenhouse gases than the city's streetlights."
Metropolis

"[W]ith his first book, Washburn has accomplished, if not quite the impossible, then certainly the daunting: he’s written a concise and accessible treatise on urban planning, blissfully free of jargon and clear enough to be understood by both professional and citizen-designers."
ASLA's The Dirt
"Entertaining and attractively designed...a fantastic introduction to the discipline of urban design for non-designers. ...Washburn's approach to resiliency is both idealistic and practical."
This Big City

"...a refreshingly practical take on the power of urban design and its role in crafting the tools that guide and shape development."
Can't Catch My Breath

"...the book is about more than how neighborhoods and community's can survive times of crisis; it's about how neighborhoods and community's can thrive in the midst of everyday life..."
Urban Review STL

"Washburn helps the reader look at the city differently, and care about its future. His approach works regardless of your city."
Grist

"It's perfect reading for a rainy, rainy day."
The New York Times Book Review

"[A] cri de coeur for action by cities"
Development Policy of New York; former Mayor of Bogotá Colombia - Enrique Peñalosa

“Alex Washburn shows planning in New York as it is really done: with the technical requirements, the political difficulties and the dreams. Urban leaders around the world will learn much from this insightful book about designing for greater resiliency to climate change.”
CHOICE

"Washburn's generally straightforward organization allows readers to use the book like a design manual. He eschews technical jargon for an accessible and approachable tone and language. Beautifully produced with abundant color illustrations that effectively contrast worldwide approaches to urban design, this volume will appeal to a wide specialist and generalist audience."
Metropolis

"[W]ith his first book, Washburn has accomplished, if not quite the impossible, then certainly the daunting: he's written a concise and accessible treatise on urban planning, blissfully free of jargon and clear enough to be understood by both professional and citizen-designers."
Planning

"Washburn's attitude and incisive analysis give this book a rare combination of realism and hope."
Spacing

"Simply put, The Nature of Urban Design reads like an engaging story, through the eyes of a well-informed urban planner, who wants nothing more than to see good done in the world."
President of the Board, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy of N - Enrique Peñalosa
"Alex Washburn shows planning in New York as it is really done: with the technical requirements, the political difficulties and the dreams. Urban leaders around the world will learn much from this insightful book about designing for greater resiliency to climate change."
ASLA's The Dirt blog

"Entertaining and attractively designed...a fantastic introduction to the discipline of urban design for non-designers. ...Washburn's approach to resiliency is both idealistic and practical."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781610913805
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 10/3/2013
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 779,484
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexandros Washburn

Alexandros Washburn is the Chief Urban Designer of the New York City Department of City Planning and former Public Works Advisor and chief architect for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
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