Reading list

Cities and Architecture Undergraduate Reading List

Verso Books 7 September 2016

Cities and Architecture Undergraduate Reading List

How might cities be reorganized in more socially just and ecologically sane ways? And how they can become the focus for anti-capitalist resistance?
As the housing crisis worsens in cities across the world and the inequalities of urban environments become more pronounced, a radical approach to city planning and urban development becomes even more vital and necessary. 

This school year get inspired by this reading list of books that propose new ways to reimagine the city and underline the need for progressive architectural and planning alternatives.

Last Futures: Nature, Technology, and the End of Architecture
by Douglas Murphy

Excavating the lost archeology of the present day, Douglas Murphy's Last Futures is a cultural history of the last avant-garde. By creating a historical account of the architects, dreamers and thinkers, who sought to conceive a better future, Murphy shows us that the flexible, socially responsive building lives on, but in mutated form; it's figured as the supermarket and the open-plan office – not spaces of liberation but of control. Murphy diagnoses the source of our current situation and reorients us towards powerful alternative futures.

Read an extract from Last Futures on the Verso blog.

In Defense of Housing: The Politics of Crisis (UK only, available in the US in October)
by David Madden and Peter Marcuse

In Defense of Housing is the definitive statement on the housing crisis from leading urban planner Peter Marcuse and sociologist David Madden. They look at the causes and consequences of the housing problem and detail the need for progressive alternatives. The housing crisis cannot be solved by minor policy shifts, they argue. Rather, the housing crisis has deep political and economic roots—and therefore requires a radical response.

Radical Cities: Across Latin America In Search of a New Architecture
by Justin McGuirk

"After decades of social and political failure, a new generation has revitalized architecture and urban design in order to address persistent poverty and inequality. Together, these activists, pragmatists and social idealists are performing bold experiments that the rest of the world may learn from." In Radical Cities, Justin McGuirk travels across Latin America asking: what makes the city of the future? In the most urbanized continent on the planet, he discovers activists, pragmatists and social idealists performing bold architectural experiments that the rest of the world may learn from.

Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism
by Stephen Graham

Cities are the new battleground of our increasingly urban world. From the slums of the global South to the wealthy financial centers of the West, Cities Under Siege traces the spread of political violence through the sites, spaces, infrastructure and symbols of the world’s rapidly expanding metropolitan areas. Drawing on a wealth of original research, Stephen Graham shows how Western militaries and security forces now perceive all urban terrain as a conflict zone inhabited by lurking shadow enemies. He looks at the militarization and surveillance of international borders, the use of ‘security’ concerns to suppress democratic dissent, and the enacting of legislation to suspend civilian law.

Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infastructure Space
by Keller Easterling

In Extrastatecraft Keller Easterling ruminates on the position of infrastructure in space. Infrastructure is not only the underground pipes and cables controlling our cities. Following a new tradition of writing, that looks at how architecture is integrated into larger economic, military, technological, and political narratives, Easterling finds scope for resistance in the modern built environment.

All Over the Map: Writing on Buildings and Cities
by Michael Sorkin

Sorkin's architectural writing is informed by his belief that all architecture is political and All Over the Map is no different. The book focuses on New York, opening in 2001 with the destruction of the World Trade Center, however, rather than a flâneur's account of the city, the book becomes an architectural manifesto, indicative of the wider implications that Sorkin's critical thinking addresses. Sorkin's favours sustainable, bounded, polycentric and diverse cities, a cohesion, that emphasises public arrangement, rather than individual buildings.

Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions
by Fredric Jameson

Archaeologies of the Future sees Jameson considers the significance of the concept of utopia, in an age of globalization that is characterized by the dizzying technologies of the First World, and the social disintegration of the Third. A continuation of his enquiries into the nature of the literary utopia, Jameson believes we must consider the social and political circumstances out of which science fiction emerges.

Restless Cities
Edited by Matthew Beaumont and Gregory Dart

Restless Cities enacts a history of the idiosyncratic character of the metropolitan city from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first-century megalopolis. It explores that which has defined the modern city, studying nightwalking, urbicide, property, commuting and recycling. Restless Cities includes contributions by Marshall Berman, Geoff Dyer, Patrick Keiller, Esther Leslie, Iain Sinclair, and Mark W. Turner.

Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution
by David Harvey

Critical Geographer David Harvey looks at the city as a site of utopian thinking, he reads the city as a seemingly dichotomous centre of capital accumulation and revolutionary politics. Drawing on the Paris Commune as well as Occupy Wall Street and the London Riots, Harvey asks how cities might be reorganized in more socially just and ecologically sane ways—and how they can become the focus for anti-capitalist resistance.

Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City
by Bradley L. Garrett

Explore Everything recasts the city as a space for infinitesimal adventure and exploration. Plotting expeditions from London, Paris, Berlin, Detroit, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Bradley L. Garrett has tested the boundaries of urban security in order to experience the city in ways beyond the everyday. Garrett reminds us that the city should belong to its citizens.

Good Neighbors: Gentrifying Diversity in Boston’s South End
by Sylvie Tissot
Translated by David Broder and Catherine Romatowski

Does gentrification destroy diversity? Or does it thrive on it? Boston’s South End, a legendary working-class neighborhood with the largest Victorian brick row house district in the United States and a celebrated reputation for diversity, has become in recent years a flashpoint for the problems of gentrification. It has born witness to the kind of rapid transformation leading to pitched battles over the class and race politics throughout the country and indeed the contemporary world.

Planet of Slums
by Mike Davis

In this brilliant and ambitious book, Mike Davis explores the future of a radically unequal and explosively unstable urban world. From the sprawling barricadas of Lima to the garbage hills of Manila, urbanization has been disconnected from industrialization, and even from economic growth. Davis portrays a vast humanity warehoused in shantytowns and exiled from the formal world economy. He argues that the rise of this informal urban proletariat is a wholly unforeseen development, and asks whether the great slums, as a terrified Victorian middle class once imagined, are volcanoes waiting to erupt.

A Philosophy of Walking
by Frédéric Gros
Translated by John Howe
Illustrated by Clifford Harper

In A Philosophy of Walking, a bestseller in France, leading thinker Frédéric Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B—the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble—and reveals what they say about us. Gros draws attention to other thinkers who also saw walking as something central to their practice. On his travels he ponders Thoreau's eager seclusion in Walden Woods, the reason Rimbaud walked in a fury, while Nerval rambled to cure his melancholy. Brilliant and erudite, an entertaining and insightful manifesto for putting one foot in front of the other.

The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International
by McKenzie Wark

Over fifty years after the Situationist International appeared, its legacy continues to inspire activists, artists and theorists around the world. Such a legend has accrued to this movement that the story of the SI now demands to be told in a contemporary voice capable of putting it into the context of twenty-first-century struggles. Accessible to those who have only just discovered the Situationists and filled with new insights, The Beach Beneath the Street rereads the group’s history in the light of our contemporary experience of communications, architecture, and everyday life.

More readling lists:

Philosophy Undergraduate Reading List
Art and Aesthetics Undergraduate Reading List
Economics Undergraduate Reading List
Race and Ethnicity Undergraduate Reading List

History Undergraduate Reading List
Political Theory Undergraduate Reading List
Feminism and Gender Undergraduate Reading List


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