Books – summer 2011

As I pack up my UMN office, there are piles of books that are worth sharing, before they go into a box. Here are just a few of them in no particular order:

Heat Islands: Understanding and Mitigating Heat in Urban Areas

by Lisa Gartland (Earthscan 2008)

This is a well researched and comprehensive book that explores methods of shrinking the urban heat island. It’s worth noting that Gartland provides the best explanation of albedo and emissivity I’ve yet to encounter. Where the book falls short, is it doesn’t consider going against the status quo of development and engineering practices (i.e. increasing density, or narrower streets), instead just discusses using different low albedo/pervious materials and the usual fixes.

Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning

by Timothy Beatley (Island Press  2011)

A slim volume that lays out the philosophical case for creating living cities. Doesn’t get bogged down in the technical details or process, and occasionally falls into thinking that biomimicry or a pretty garden equals a fully functioning and resilient ecosystem. Overall a good introduction to the concepts of eco-cities.

Addicted to Energy: A venture capitalist’s perspective on how to save our economy and our climate

by Elton Sherwin (Energy House 2010)

Unique among the dozens of big picture saving the planet books I’ve read over the last two years. The book is framed as a letter to a governor, which allows for discussion of policy and regulations at the state level. The author also uses examples from his personal life to keep the book from becoming too dry. Very well researched, and a good introduction for business minded folks that need the economic case made for changing their own/corporate behaviors.

The City, the River, the Bridge: Before and After the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse

Edited by Patrick Nunnally (University of Minnesota Press 2011)

I’m working on a longer review of this book by my friend and colleague at the UMN, but wanted to include it here. The book takes an in-depth local look at the impacts and repercussions of the 35w bridge collapse and yet finds a universal theme about how cities work and their relationship with nature.

Landforming: an Environmental Approach to Hillside Development, Mine Reclamation and Watershed Restoration

by Horst Schor and Donald Gray (Wiley 2007)

Could become the standard text for teaching grading to landscape architects as it rejects the geometric planarity approach to grading that civil engineering embrace. I especially appreciate the section on mine reclamation, as the authors connect the bigger case about anthropogenic alteration of our planet, resource extraction, and our ethical/moral obligations once we despoil a place.

Future Forms and Design for Sustainable Cities

by Mike Jenks and Nicola Dempsey (Architectural Press 2005)

A collection essays on the future of cities, the book leans towards the geographers perspective of exploring what is, but does mix in chapters about tools and methods for designers and planners to craft sustainable cities. Of course, this book has been in print for 6 years and our knowledge of how eco-cities has advanced significantly in this short period. The book should stand the test of time to emerge as a seminal collection that might be the first to establish the balance between technical (urban simulations, urban economics, planning methodologies, urban climate, et cetera), design processes, and social benefits. The figures and illustrations add character (with a subtle British sense of humor) and are useful to illuminate the complexity of the topic.

Design for Flooding: Architecture, Landscape and Urban Design for Resilience to Climate Change

by Donald Watson and Michele Adams (Wiley 2011)

This book transcends it’s title to become a comprehensive introduction to the subject of environmental design and planning. Flooding and anthropogenic impacts on water frames a range of topics that rivals William Marsh’s seminal Landscape Planning. personally, I would consider using this book as the text for an introductory course on landscape architecture/planning or hydrology over Marsh as it better engages human impacts  (but falls short on the cultural expression on the land, for that I’d turn to Ann Spirn’s Language of the Landscape or anything by JB Jackson).

For your shopping and viewing pleasure, I’ve provided links to the books on amazon – enjoy!

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