Tools for Creating Space — An initial reading list

I was talking to an old friend and a new one today about creating space (or is hosting it a better word, shaping it, allowing it to grow…). I have been thinking about this on and off for a very long time now and so returning to this list I began some time ago. Looking at it, I’ve only just realised after that conversation that I have really fallen in a shocking way once again into instinctively distinguishing between public and private space in a very binary way.

Ideally I think there is a continuum, a way to move easily between — to even be drawn from one to the next and back again — that is not just by crossing the boundaries we create around estate, institution, park, garden, home, rooms and etc. If I remember rightly I had this flash of insight when reading the awesome Christopher Alexander. I suppose my forgetting is the power of habit (and binary thinking, it’s so easy and helps make sense of the bewildering amount of information out there).

This continuum connects with but doesn’t map exactly onto adjectives like sacred, quiet, lively, creative, peaceful, inspirational, wild, communal, safe and all those many other kinds of feelings and spaces I think help us enjoy the fullness of life. It also fits increasingly well with my latest reflections — I’ve been thinking that so much we study or read focuses on things themselves, when in fact what’s most interesting lies in how things connect and relate to each other and of course in human relationships, this connecting all happens in the physical spaces between us. All my research on race and the construction of material spaces and the political economy of cities and community is really about that, I like thinking about how Gramsci or Stuart Hall or David Harvey might intersect with the new things I am reading about how traffic patterns and public squares and community halls and understandings of community, or in turn how those connect to the ways permaculturists might think about and design a landscape and how human beings live on a piece of land.

This started as a list about public space, it has embarrassingly few women or people of colour or people from non-Western countries. People the canon pushes to one side and have to be sought out — I am seeking them out. My thesis, of course, was full of this kind of work uncovered over the course of several years, part of future research is mapping and writing how the political economy of geographies of race and gender (and the other things that shift our relationships to space and each other) map onto these more intimate ways of creating/building/shaping/hosting spaces.

Here’s a beginning bibliography of what I’ve read and marked to read, to be updated as an ongoing concern and suggestions are welcome. I will be updating it over time, so it should be getting better.

Alexander, Christopher – A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure Series) – an encyclopedic look from tiny details to whole communities about how we occupy and design space.

Alexander, Christopher – The Timeless Way of Building

Anderson, Elijah – The Cosmopolitan Canopy — an ethnographic look at Philadelphia spaces that are comfortable for all and with potential for relationships to develop, and also the ways that the colour line and segregation work to undo them…

Appleyard, Donald – Livable Streets – Some of the best concrete studies I’ve seen (and best illustrations) on patterns of sociality and built environment, particularly traffic.

Bachelard, Gaston – The Poetics of Space – A little French philosophy using phenomenology (or focus on the experience) of space, with a focus on the poetic image and the intimate spaces of the home.

Beaumont, Matthew and Gregory Dart (eds) – Restless Cities A wide ranging collection of authors writing about the different ways we live, experience, traverse the city

Bell, Graham – The Permaculture Way: Practical Steps to Create a Self-Sustaining World: 1

Chtchetglov, Ivan – ‘A Formulary for a New Urbanism’ one of my favourite situationist writings on the city and its transformation …

♀Civic Systems Lab – Designed to Scale A wonderful study of a year long project in West Norwood, London using the creation of multiple small collectively managed projects to create an ecology of place that supports a healthy community

♀ Cooper-Marcus, Clare – Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces

Cooper-Marcus, Clare – House as Mirror of Self: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home – A lovely psychoanalytic look at human relationships to the home — how they shape the space and how in turn it helps to shape them. 

♀ Cooper-Marcus, Clare and Wendy Sarkissian – Housing as If People Mattered: Site Design Guidelines for Medium-density Family Housing – Some of the few women writing about design and its impact on human beings — particularly women and children. Their dedication and insight are amazing.

Cullen, Gordon – The Concise Townscape — A wonderful look at how we move through space, and how planners or architects can design spaces to create different effects.

Dovey, Kimberly (1985) ‘Home and Homelessness: Introduction’, in Altman, Irwin and Carol M. Werner eds. Home Environments. Human Behavior and Environment: Advances in Theory and Research. Vol 8. New York: Plenum Press, 1985. — One of the best things I’ve read on how we connect to the space of home, and how that reframes the meaning of homelessness.

♀ Ferguson, Francesca – Make_Shift City: Renegotiating the Urban Commons: Die Neuverhandlung des Urbanen

Fiebrig, Dr Immo – Edible Cities – Urban Permaculture for Gardens, Balconies, Rooftops and Beyond

Fukuoka, Masanobu – The One-Straw Revolution — His goal of working hard to achieve a life of simplicity and as little work as possible through observing and working with nature is inspirational.

Gehl, Jan – Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space

Gehl, Jan & Birgitte Svarre – How to Study Public Life: Methods in Urban Design – lovely studies of how people move through and use public spaces geared to improving how we design them.

Hamdi, Nabeel – The Placemaker’s Guide to Building Community (Earthscan Tools for Community Planning)

Hamdi, Nabeel – Small Change: About the Art of Practice and the Limits of Planning in Cities – A look at creating place that begins with a goal of creating an ‘architecture of possibilities’….

Holmgren, David – Permaculture Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability – a primer on the philosophies behind permaculture, thoughts on buildings connections and diversity

Howard, Ebenezer – Garden Cities of To-Morrow — a classic of planning, one whose utopian ideals have mostly been stripped as it has been used as a basis for suburb design.

Jacobs, Allan B. – Great Streets

♀ Jacobs, Jane – The Death and Life of Great American Cities – Classic book on everything that makes beighbourhoods safe, vibrant, creative and wonderful to live in.

Kaplan, Allan – The Development Practitioners’ Handbook – a fascinating and above all respectful look at working with communities to improve conditions and spaces.

Lefebvre, Henri – The Urban Revolution – One of the great philosophers on space, its development and commodification.

Le Corbusier – Planning the City of Tomorrow – Here because this explains so much of modern planning and city centres as we know them — and is pure evil.

Levine, Donald N. – Georg Simmel on Individuality and Social Forms

Lofland, Lyn – The Public Realm: Exploring the City’s Quintessential Social Territory – a transformative book looking and the connections between physical space and lived space, what Lofland describes as ‘realms’.

Lynch, Kevin – The Image of the City – a fascinating look at the imageability and legibility of the city, how it is experienced by residents, how both enhance experience, and how they are improved through deisgn and planning.

Manzini, Ezio – Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation (Design Thinking, Design Theory)

mcdonaugh, tom – The Situationists and the City – a wonderful new set of translations of situationist writings on thinking about how people are shaped by the city and how they can transform it.

Minton, Anna – Ground Control: Fear and happiness in the twenty-first-century city – A look at the UK policy and regulatory context of development and housing, and the impacts of increasing privatisation, criminalisation and gating of communities.

Oswalt, Oswalt, Klaus Overmeyer, Philipp Misselwitz – Urban Catalyst: Mit Zwischennutzungen Stadt entwickeln

♀ Phillips, April – Designing Urban Agriculture: A Complete Guide to the Planning, Design, Construction, Maintenance and Management of Edible Landscapes

Project for Public Spaces – How to Turn a Place Around

Rosa, Marcos L & Ute Weiland – Handmade Urbanism: Mumbai – Sao Paulo -Istanbul – Mexico City – Cape Town: From Community Initiatives to Participatory Models

Rossi, Aldo – The Architecture of the City

Rudofsky, Bernard – Streets for People: A Primer for Americans

Ruskin, John – The Seven Lamps of Architecture

Sadik-Khan, Janette – Streetfight — The political and design story of transforming New York with paint, bike lanes and increased pedestrian and public space.

Simmel, Georg – ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’ (1903) — the impact of the city, its crowds, its buildings and cultural life on human beings, an interesting reversal of urban planning questions.

Sitte, Camillo – The Art of Building Cities: City Building According to Its Artistic Fundamentals — the 1889 classic on what works in ancient spaces and cities, and looking to eradicate the rectangular plot from modern planning…

Speck, Jeff – Walkable Cities — some good strategies for creating walkable cities, though more from a point of view of planning for increases in property values and those who can afford them

Tuan, Yu-Fu – Topophilia – a fascinating study of topophilia, or the ‘affective bond between people and place.

Ward, Colin – Talking Houses: 10 Lectures

Wark, MacKenzie – The Beach Beneath the Streets If anyone can rescue the Situationist International from a descent into artistic inconsequentiality, it is McKenzie Wark.

Whyte, William H. – The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces – A classic study of how to study public space and what you learn from the practice in thinking about design and community building.

Ziehl, Michael, Sarah Osswald, Oliver Hasemann – Second Hand Spaces: Recycling Sites Undergoing Urban Transformation

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