Monday, September 14, 2009


Planetizen has produced a list of 100 "top urban thinkers." While the list has some sensible names (Don Schoup, Tony Downs, Ed Glaeser, Joel Garreau, my USC colleague Manuel Castells, and even though I am not sold on everything he says, Richard Florida*), it also consists of a poseur (Prince Charles), a hater of cities (Thomas Jefferson) and a whole bunch of people who like to attend salons at which they put down the "banal" people who chose to live in "nowhere," including a man whose most famous project became the set for the movie "The Truman Show."

The list lacks some of the most important analysts of urban form and urban problems: Von Thunen, Ed Mills, John Kain, and Reynolds Fairly come immediately to mind. For us to better understand cities, we must understand externalities, and we must understand preferences, and that doesn't mean our own.

*I root for Buffalo to win football games, but I don't think it is coming back as a city. But Florida has provocative ideas worth investigating, and has had a profound and wonderful influence on his students.


mjk said...

My own introduction to urbanism consisted of reading Kunstler's "The Geography of Nowhere", and seeing Andres Duany lecture on traditional urban forms in America. They led me to Jacobs and Whyte, among others, so I wouldn't be so disdainful of them. I can muster a lot more hostility towards the guys who gave us these visions of the city.

Richard Green said...

I am completely with you on Le Corbusier. Wright was kind of like Jefferson--he just didn't like cities very much.

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