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The following list of books is from my personal library—they are unfortunately not available at the Flint Public Library, but are still in print and widely available to purchase or order at your local bookstore.  In my years of academic, personal and professional study, I’ve found them to be particularly interesting, informative, and topical for framing a larger discussion on urbanism, sustainability, design and planning as it relates to the many opportunities our city faces.

Please note, this is by no means an exhaustive list and will grow change over time.  Feel free to suggest your own favorites!

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation – Tim Brown, 2009

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, describes the integration of the design thinking—the collaborative, human-centered, and exploratory tactics designers use to solve problems—into organizational strategies that can positively impact innovation, problem-solving, and creativity.  Great design does not come from a spark of instant genius, but through a meticulous process of identification, prototyping, and testing that can be learned by anyone.

Green Urbanism – Timothy Beatley, 2000

Based on his extensive travels through Europe, author and University of Virginia professor Tim Beatley, documents the strategies, policy and practice of European design and planning to inform a broad range of topics including governance, economics, mobility, housing, planning, planning, and energy to name a few.  Now 10 years old, this book still stands as a fantastic guide for tapping into the strategies, ideas, and practices needed to develop Flint as a green, ‘sustainable’ city.

The Timeless Way of Building & A Pattern Language –Christopher Alexander, 1977

A Pattern Language is just that—a book of typologies, programs, landscapes, structures and forms that, when combined, make up the structure and grammar of place.  Combined with Alexander’s The Timeless Way of Building, the books highlight a hierarchy of form, materials, construction and practice than ranges in scale from the region to the art on your home’s walls.  These classics express a level of character, thought and craft rarely seen in contemporary practice.

Design With Nature –Ian McHarg, 1967

Another classic, McHarg’s book is noted as the first application of a process of analysis that would later be developed into Geographic Information Systems.  The integration of landscape, ecology and geography with the planning and development human systems led to a new role for landscape and analysis in design, planning, and conservation.  While the book is dated, and placed too much emphasis on the separation of urbanism and ecology, it nonetheless continues to inform the methodologies and integration of landscapes with urbanism and design.

Sustainable Urbanism: Urban design with nature –Douglas Farr, 2008

Authored by Doug Farr, architect, urban designer, charter member of The Congress of the New Urbanism and chair of the LEED™ for Neighborhood Development Core Committee, this book seeks in part, to merge A Pattern Language with Design With Nature to advocate for a new approach to sustainable urbanism.  The book doesn’t just address the physical aspects of sustainable urbanism like walkability, compact development, neighborhoods, human health and high-performance infrastructure, but the issues with making a case for, and ultimately, implementing it.  A range of case studies, both built and unbuilt, at a variety of scales, is used to illustrate the concepts and successes of sustainable urban design and practice.

The Four Principal Challenges/Opportunities in Communicating Sustainable Urbanism: [Adapted from the book, p.68]

  • The public’s lack of recognition of the term, its complexity, and its misuse
  • The public’s lack of focus on how the built environment affects health and quality of life
  • The need to distinguish sustainable urban development early and often from climate-changing sprawl
  • Getting people to realize that our current American lifestyle reduces harmony in our households, lives, and our world.


Suburban Transformations –Paul Lukez, 2007

In this book, architect and associate professor at MIT, Lukez explores the adaptive and transformative design and planning processes needed to address suburban sprawl and placelessness.  Combining many of the ideas presented in the above resources, this work is both theory and practical methodology.  It describes a way to facilitate and foster the natural development of unsustainable suburban development, conditions and planning into genuine places of vibrant, sustainable urbanism.  While not suburban, Flint is full of brownfields, greyfields, vacant lands, tipping-point neighborhoods and languishing commercial corridors and districts that would make exciting and visionary case studies for this process. 

Landscape Planning: Environmental applications –William Marsh, 1997, 3rd ed.

Former Director of the Earth & Resource Sciences Dept. at UM – Flint, professor and mentor for many design and planning students and professionals like myself, Marsh continues to be one of the foremost experts in the field of landscape planning and analysis.  Few have tried to distill the role that environmental and ecological systems play in our built society and fewer still have made their attempts so accessible to not just designers and planners, but the lay-person as well.  The book is one of the most-used academic texts in the nation on this subject and should be required reading for anyone wishing to develop a site.

The Landscape Urbanism Reader –Ed. Charles Waldheim, 2006

Waldheim, Associate Dean and Director of the LA Program at the University of Toronto, author, and visiting scholar across the U.S., coined the term ‘landscape urbanism’ to describe a new approach to urban design and development.  Instead of traditional urban design that focuses primarily on policy and planning guidelines or architecture that focuses primarily on built form, landscape urbanism approaches urban design from the integrated, multi-layered/multi-disciplinary and dynamic perspective of the built and natural landscape through time and place.  This book collects some of the earliest writings and discussion on the subject and presents the reader with a comprehensive foundation for further explorations.  I happen to be a strong believer in the basic principles of landscape urbanism and think it has tremendous potential to inform and influence the sustainable development of Flint for the better.

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