A Country of Cities
A Manifesto for an Urban America
By Vishaan Chakrabarti. Foreword by Norman Foster. Illustrations by SHoP Architects.
Today, the United States is divided, a country of countries characterized by bitter partisanship, economic decline, environmental degradation and growing social inequity. The same tired debates define our political rhetoric, but little is said about how architecture, urbanism and development–i.e., about the way in which we use land–have fueled this national malaise. Despite all the changes politicians promise to enact, altering our sprawling, gluttonous lifestyle is not among them. Our Federal policies continue to perilously fuel a country of highways, houses and hedges, and we are stuck in traffic while emerging economies are speeding past us. A Country of Cities contemplates a different nation, one of trains, towers and trees. By removing the legal, economic, and moral imbalances that incentivize sprawl, we can realize a more prosperous, more sustainable and more equitable nation. Author Vishaan Chakrabarti passionately and straightforwardly advocates for this alternate universe and for the essential precept that cities are the silver bullet for the nation’s–and the planet’s–ills. In “Why Cities Are Good,” the first half of the book, Chakrabarti looks at the economic, environmental and public health benefits of cities, bringing together a variety of research that indicates why cities are performing better than their suburban counterparts in terms of critically important metrics, including public happiness. In the second half, “How to Build Good Cities,” he proposes the methods for building robust, sustainable and joyous urban environments, drawing upon examples from diverse cities across the U.S. and around the world. Chakrabarti’s clear, accessible prose is accompanied by a distinct visual language of original illustrations created by SHoP Architects, one of the leading firms in the U.S.
In the world of urbanism and planning, there’s been a barrage of recent books on similar themes….But Mr. Chakrabarti has written maybe the most useful one, a polemic in favour of city living that makes the stakes clear.
—Alex Bozikovic, Toronto Globe and Mail