Reading List

Cities and Architecture: Verso Student Reading

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Our global present is increasingly defined by the condition of cities. From the radical urbanism of Latin America, to the skyscrapers of the global Megacities, our Cities and Archictecture titles offer the perfect primer to this most vital of subjects.

See all our student reading here.

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.

In Radical Cities, Justin McGuirk travels across Latin America in search of the activist architects, maverick politicians and alternative communities already answering these questions. From Brazil to Venezuela, and from Mexico to Argentina, McGuirk discovers the people and ideas shaping the way cities are evolving. 

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. 

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.

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.

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 Limits to Capital provides one of the best theoretical guides to the history and geography of capitalist development. In this new edition, Harvey updates his classic text with a substantial discussion of the turmoil in world markets today.

David Harvey is the single most important geographer writing today and a leading social theorist of our age, offering a comprehensive critique of contemporary capitalism. In this fascinating book, he shows the way forward for just such an understanding, enlarging 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.

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 can become the focus for anti-capitalist resistance.

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 Powerforces us to rethink our urban future, as well as our historically shaped present.

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