Week 10 wrap-up

Blog round-up

Recommendations on transportation and Victor Gruen from the Toronto Public Library

The Toronto Reference Library at 789 Yonge St. now houses the collection of the Urban Affairs Library, formerly located at Metro Hall. As a specialized collection devoted to all aspects of urban planning and local government, the library contains far more than the materials cited here. Titles were selected by librarian Cynthia Fisher to give you an overview of some new and some old books and reports that you can find at the library to complement (and perhaps contradict) some of Jane Jacobs’ views. When viewing the catalogue records for the books, click on some of the subject headings to give you a broader range of materials.

Transportation planning

The Toronto Public Library has hundreds of books on transportation planning issues.  A sampling of some recent thoughts on transportation planning:

An introduction to sustainable transportation : policy, planning and implementation

By Preston L. Schiller.

This text reflects a fundamental change in transportation decision making. It focuses on accessibility rather than mobility, emphasizes the need to expand the range of options and impacts considered in analysis, and provides practical tools to allow planners, policy makers and the general public to determine the best solution to the transportation problems facing a community.

Carfree design manual

By J. H. Crawford.

This enticing manual shows how to design sustainable, carfree cities that meet the needs and desires of their inhabitants. Based on walking, bicycling, and public transport, this comprehensive handbook offers a fresh look at city design. The book proposes methods to achieve aesthetically pleasing and practical, carfree living environments. From urban planning and neighborhood design to squares and building layouts, the author argues that narrower streets, four-story buildings, and interior courtyards offer a higher quality of life. A design process is proposed that directly involves future residents. Illustrative case examples and comparative analysis of 18 urban spaces are also included.

Gridlock! : why we are stuck in traffic and what to do about it

By Randal O’Toole.

For an opposing view, we have a number of O’Toole’s books. Love him or hate him, Randal O’Toole takes a stand contrary to the prevailing views on “smart growth” planning, transit and cars.

The city after the automobile : an architect’s vision

By Moshe Safdie.

One of Canada’s premier architects presents his views from The Ailing City of Chapter 1 to the final chapter The City After the Automobile — Epilogue: Urbana.

Car wars : battles on the road to nowhere

By Chris Mosey.

Mosey, an environmental journalist for national UK and Swedish newspapers, offers a provocative and challenging investigation into the history of the car. In doing so, he traces its turbulent history and the equally controversial developments of British Transport policy, asking if we are heading on a road to nowhere?

Car sick : solutions for our car-addicted culture

By Lynn Sloman.

Mass motorisation has ruptured community ties, bankrupted a nation of family shops, and bred a nation of obese children and adults. Politicians stumble from one transport crisis to the next. Sloman proposes a novel way forward – not through the big-bang civil engineering projects, but by getting people to think about their choices, rather than reaching for their car keys.

And back to Jane Jacobs and New York City:

The battle for Gotham : New York in the shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs

By Roberta Brandes Gratz.

In the 1970s, New York City hit rock bottom. Many people credit New York’s “master builder” Robert Moses with turning Gotham around, despite his brutal, undemocratic and demolition-heavy ways. Gratz contradicts this conventional view. New York City, Gratz argues, recovered precisely because of the waning power of Moses. His decline in the late 1960s and the drying up of big government funding for urban renewal projects allowed New York to organically regenerate according to the precepts defined by Jane Jacobs in her classic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and in contradiction to Moses’s urban philosophy. As American cities face a devastating economic crisis, Jacobs’s philosophy is again vital for the redevelopment of metropolitan life. Gratz who was named as one of Planetizen’s Top 100 Urban Thinkers gives an on-the-ground account of urban renewal and community success.

Victor Gruen

Who is Victor Gruen?

Jane refers to Victor Gruen’s work in this chapter. He was an Austrian-born architect (1903–1980), best known as a pioneer in the design of shopping malls. He was noted for urban revitalisation applied in master plans such as for Fort Worth, Texas (1955), Kalamazoo, Michigan (1958) and Fresno, California (1965). An advocate of prioritizing pedestrians over cars in urban cores, he was also the designer of the first outdoor pedestrian mall in the United States, the Kalamazoo Mall.

Mall maker : Victor Gruen, architect of an American dream

By M. Jeffrey Hardwick.

The shopping mall is both the most visible and the most contentious symbol of American prosperity. Despite their convenience, malls are routinely criticized for representing much that is wrong in America — sprawl, conspicuous consumption, the loss of regional character, and the decline of Mom and Pop stores.

So ubiquitous are malls that most people would be suprised to learn that they are the brainchild of a single person, architect Victor Gruen. An immigrant from Austria who fled the Nazis in 1938, Gruen based his idea for the mall on an idealized America: the dream of concentrated shops that would benefit the businessperson as well as the consumer and that would foster a sense of shared community. Modernist Philip Johnson applauded Gruen for creating a true civic art and architecture that enriched Americans’ daily lives, and for decades he received praise from luminaries such as Lewis Mumford, Winthrop Rockefeller, and Lady Bird Johnson. Yet, in the end, Gruen returned to Europe, thoroughly disillusioned with his American dream.

In Mall Maker, the first biography of this visionary spirit, M. Jeffrey Hardwick relates Gruen’s successes and failures-his work at the 1939 World’s Fair, his makeover of New York’s Fifth Avenue boutiques, his rejected plans for reworking entire communities, such as Fort Worth, Texas, and his crowning achievement, the enclosed shopping mall. Throughout Hardwick illuminates the dramatic shifts in American culture during the mid-twentieth century, notably the rise of suburbia and automobiles, the death of downtown, and the effect these changes had on American life. Gruen championed the redesign of suburbs and cities through giant shopping malls, earnestly believing that he was promoting an American ideal, the ability to build a community. Yet, as malls began covering the landscape and downtowns became more depressed, Gruen became painfully aware that his dream of overcoming social problems through architecture and commerce was slipping away. By the tumultuous year of 1968, it had disappeared. Victor Gruen made America depend upon its shopping malls. While they did not provide an invigorated sense of community as he had hoped, they are enduring monuments to the lure of consumer culture.

Victor Gruen’s books are largely out of print now, but you can borrow them from the Toronto Public Library:

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