Reading List

Architecture and Cities: Verso Student Reading

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Our global present is increasingly defined by the condition of cities. From skyrocketing rents and the marginalisation of the city's working class, to the politics of movement and uneven accessibility, our Architecture and Cities books offer the perfect primer to this most vital of subjects.

David Harvey, the single most important geographer writing today and a leading social theorist of our age, offers a comprehensive critique of contemporary capitalism. In this fascinating book, he enlarges upon the key themes in his recent work: the development of neoliberalism, the spread of inequalities across the globe, and “space” as a key theoretical concept. This book will be essential reading for scholars and students across the humanities and social sciences. 

Rebel Cities places the city at the heart of both capital and class struggles, looking at locations ranging from Johannesburg to Mumbai, from New York City to São Paulo. 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 become the focus for anti-capitalist resistance.

The most comprehensive survey of the current crisis, Urban Warfare charts how the financial crisis and wider urban politics have left millions homeless and in financial desperation across the world. 

Savage Messiah collects the entire set of Laura Grace Ford’s fanzine to date. Part graphic novel, part artwork, the book is both an angry polemic against the marginalisation of the city’s working class and an exploration of the cracks that open up in urban space.

Our cities are changing. Around the world, more and more money is being invested in buildings and land. Real estate is now a $217 trillion dollar industry, worth thirty-six times the value of all the gold ever mined. It forms sixty percent of global assets, and one of the most powerful people in the world—the president of the United States—made his name as a landlord and developer. Capital City explains the role of planners in the real estate state, as well as the remarkable power of planning to reclaim urban life.

Hollow City surveys San Francisco’s transformation—skyrocketing residential and commercial rents that are driving out artists, activists, nonprofit organizations and the poor; the homogenization of the city’s architecture, industries and population; the decay of its public life; and the erasure of its sites of civic memory.

Mobility Justice is a new way to understand the deep flows of inequality and uneven accessibility in a world in which the mobility commons have been enclosed. It is a call for a new understanding of the politics of movement and a demand for justice for all.

City of Segregation documents one hundred years of struggle against the enforced separation of racial groups through property markets, constructions of community, and the growth of neoliberalism. Andrea Gibbons reveals the shape and nature of the racist ideology that must be fought, in Los Angeles and across the United States, if we hope to found just cities. 

In Extreme Cities, Dawson offers an alarming portrait of the future of our cities, describing the efforts of Staten Island, New York, and Shishmareff, Alaska residents to relocate; Holland’s models for defending against the seas; and the development of New York City before and after Hurricane Sandy. Our best hope lies not with fortified sea walls, he argues. Rather, it lies with urban movements already fighting to remake our cities in a more just and equitable way.

Forest land, defence land, health service land and above all else local authority land—for farming and school sports, for recreation and housing—has been sold off en masse. Why? How? And with what social, economic and political consequences? The New Enclosure provides the first ever study of this profoundly significant phenomenon, situating it as a centrepiece of neoliberalism in Britain and as a successor programme to the original eighteenth-century enclosures.  

Extrastatecraft is the operating system of the modern world: the skyline of Dubai, the subterranean pipes and cables sustaining urban life, free-trade zones, the standardized dimensions of credit cards, and hyper-consumerist shopping malls. It is all this and more. Infrastructure sets the invisible rules that govern the spaces of our everyday lives, making the city the key site of power and resistance in the twenty-first century.

Keller Easterling reveals the nexus of emerging governmental and corporate forces buried within the concrete and fiber-optics of our modern habitat. Extrastatecraft will change how we think about cities—and, perhaps, how we live in them. 

Postmodern Geographies stands as the cardinal broadcast and defence of theory’s “spatial turn.” From the suppression of space in modern social science and the disciplinary aloofness of geography to the spatial returns of Foucault and Lefebvre and the construction of Marxist geographies alert to urbanization and global development, renowned geographer Edward W. Soja details the trajectory of this turn and lays out its key debates.  

In an age of globalization characterized by the dizzying technologies of the First World, and the social disintegration of the Third, is the concept of utopia still meaningful? Archaeologies of the Future, Jameson’s most substantial work since Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, investigates the development of this form since Thomas More, and interrogates the functions of utopian thinking in a post-Communist age.  

According to the United Nations, more than one billion people now live in the slums of the cities of the South. 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. 

An award-winning cultural history of how we experience the world through art, film and architecture.

In City of Quartz, Mike Davis reconstructs L.A.’s shadow history and dissects its ethereal economy. He tells us who has the power and how they hold on to it. He gives us a city of Dickensian extremes, Pynchonesque conspiracies, and a desperation straight out of Nathaniel Westa city in which we may glimpse our own future mirrored with terrifying clarity.

Urgent, timely and compelling, Municipal Dreams brilliantly brings the national story of housing to life. In this landmark reappraisal of council housing, historian John Boughton presents an alternative history of Britain. Rooted in the ambition to end slum living, and the ideals of those who would build a new society, Municipal Dreams looks at how the state’s duty to house its people decently became central to our politics. The book makes it clear why that legacy and its promise should be defended. 

Michael Sorkin is one of the most forthright and engaging architectural writers in the world. In What Goes Up he takes to task the public officials, developers, “civic” organizations, and other heroes of big money, who have made of Sorkin’s beloved New York a city of glittering towers and increasing inequality. He unpacks not simply the forms and practices—from zoning and political deals to the finer points of architectural design—that shape cities today but also offers spirited advocacy for another kind of city, reimagined from the street up on a human scale, a home to sustainable, just, and fulfilling neighborhoods and public spaces. 

 In 1968, the French Marxist philosopher Henri Lefebvre wrote “Le Droit a la Ville” (“The Right to the City”), which has become one of the most essential texts in radical geography and urban studies. It transformed the way we think about urban life and the right to make and remake our cities, and ourselves. Fifty years on, the question of who is the city is for, and why, is more urgent than ever.

In this special Verso report, some of the most important voices in the current debate on the right to city are gathered to debate what Lefebvre originally intended and what it might mean today within the neoliberal urban world.

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.

Starting at the edge of earth’s atmosphere and, in a series of riveting studies, descending through each layer, Graham explores the world of drones, the city from the viewpoint of an aerial bomber, the design of sidewalks and the hidden depths of underground bunkers. He asks: why was Dubai built to be seen from Google Earth? How do the super-rich in São Paulo live in their penthouses far above the street? Why do London billionaires build vast subterranean basements? And how do the technology of elevators and subversive urban explorers shape life on the surface and subsurface of the earth?

All Over the Map is an urgent response to the radical changes in contemporary architecture and the built environment witnessed in the twenty-first century. Characteristically polemic, incisive and energetic, these essays explore pressing questions of architectural and urban design, and critical issues of public space and participation. From New York to New Orleans, the Amazon to Jerusalem, Michael Sorkin brings a critical eye to bear on a sweeping range of subjects.

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. The Situationists tried to escape the world of twentieth-century spectacle and failed in the attempt. Wark argues that they may still help us to escape the twenty-first century, while we still can.

Does gentrification destroy diversity? Or does it thrive on it?

This subtle study of a storied urban neighborhood reveals the way that upper-middle-class newcomers have positioned themselves as champions of diversity, and how their mobilization around this key concept has reordered class divisions rather than abolished them.

The Autonomous City is the first popular history of squatting as practised in Europe and North America. Alex Vasudevan retraces the struggle for housing in Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Detroit, Hamburg, London, Madrid, Milan, New York, and Vancouver. He looks at the organisation of alternative forms of housing—from Copenhagen’s Freetown Christiana to the squats of the Lower East Side—as well as the official response, including the recent criminalisation of squatting, the brutal eviction of squatters and their widespread vilification.

From the tunnels of Gaza to the militarized airspace of the Occupied Territories, Eyal Weizman unravels Israel’s mechanisms of control and its transformation of Palestinian homes into a war zone under constant surveillance. This is essential reading for those seeking to understand how architecture and infrastructure are used as lethal weapons in the formation of Israel.

With its unique systematic overview, from Washington, D.C. and revolutionary Paris to the flamboyant twenty- first-century capital Astana in Kazakhstan, its wealth of urban observations from all the populated continents, and its sharp and multi-faceted analyses, Cities of Power forces us to rethink our urban future, as well as our historically shaped present.

All our student reading is 50% off as part of our Back to University/School sale. Ends September 30, 23:59 EST. See all our student reading lists here.