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Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities (The MIT Press)

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  207 ratings  ·  31 reviews

An argument that operational urban planning can be improved by the application of the tools of urban economics to the design of regulations and infrastructure.

Urban planning is a craft learned through practice. Planners make rapid decisions that have an immediate impact on the ground—the width of streets, the minimum size of land parcels, the heights of buildings. The

Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published November 9th 2018 by The MIT Press
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Connor Stack
It's pretty long winded so I started skimming after the first two chapters.

Basic ideas:
- Cities are primarily labor markets. People move there for jobs and companies move there for specialized workers.
- Large cities / large labor markets are more productive. Fast face-to-face communication between specialists. Fast sharing of knowledge. Good for knowledge work, bad for space-hungry industry.
- Mobility (cheap, fast commute) make for more efficient allocation of labor (each person can choose betwe
Gevorg Yeghikyan
This is a must read for all urban planners and anyone interested in how cities actually work. Written in an extremely accessible, concise and sometimes even entertaining style, this book offers the very basics of what determines cities' size, real estate prices, welfare, and attractiveness.
Arguing for the importance of including economics as domain knowledge in urban planning through an abundance of examples from first hand experience, this book should decisively serve as an "elimination of ill
Michael Lewyn
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My review of this worthwhile book is at ...more
Paavo Karlin
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are books that have the ability to change your mind. This is one of those. For everyone even remotely interested about urban design, real estate markets or even urban history this is one of those books that are hard to put down.
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I gave this book 5 stars because it was surprisingly readable for someone not well versed in the literature, it was fascinating, I learned a ton and it was enjoyable. But I have some critiques which boil down to "this guy is uber libertarian and only thinks about efficiency of labor markets and not equality of opportunity, outcome or socioeconomic mobility". I can easily see why some of his policy prescriptions would be hugely beneficial to wide swaths of people, but it's easy to imagine that ci ...more
Jim Milway
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had a bias in starting this book - unimpeded market dynamics, except where necessary, are the best forces to solve problems in our day-to-day life here on earth. In fact, many problems simply go away when supply and demand are allowed to interact to set prices and allocate resources. So, I was not disappointed with Bertaud's book. Through his years in urban planning, much of which was in the developing world, he has concluded that most urban planning exercises are about vision and dogma rather ...more
Jane Lyons
This book challenged my assumptions and offered a nice introduction to urban economics. Bertaud is right -- the field of urban planning has a lot to learn from urban economics, but I do disagree with many of his conclusions, which often ignore land use politics. Much of his scrutiny of smart growth or urban growth boundaries is rendered meaningless in the United States due to the country's restrictive, low-density zoning policies that so deeply distort the market. His conclusions also accept the ...more
May 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish all nonfiction books were at this level. Great overview, clear conceptual framework, specific and significant examples, helpful graphics actually in line with the text, concrete recommendations. Even gets into the challenges of mapping input to impacts, which is near and dear to me.

Dave, you'll like this one.
Rohit Saxena
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bertaud achieves that rare feat of blending reasonable academic detail with personalised storytelling to create a highly readable narrative. For anyone who loves the concept of cities, and wants to understand why some cities fail to be productive and liveable spaces despite the best intentions of governments and citizens alike, this is a must-read. The book is an instructive (and, almost canonical) commentary on why it is important to marry the disciplines of urban economics and urban planning, ...more
Frank Stein
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The famed urban planner Alain Bertaud, of New York University's Marron Institute for Urban Management, tries in this book to make a mea culpa for his profession, and explain how it can be rescued. Bertaud shows that urban planners have systematically ignored or denigrated the work of urban economists, and have futilely tried to plan cities without taking markets or prices into account. The result have been stymied cities unfit for anything except a planner's notepad, where the real needs of peop ...more
Peter Gyongyosi
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cities
This was the most interesting book I've ever read about urban planning & design.

None of its key points are particularly novel or unique, but they are presented well enough by someone with deep background on the field to make it a great read:

- The main advantage and attraction of cities is the large number of jobs and amenities its people can access and vica versa.
- Good urban planning, therefore, should maximize this advantage through increasing mobility and enabling growth while minimizing unwa
Joni Baboci
This is a fantastic book trying to bridge the past of qualitative and instinctual planning to the still non-existing future of a science driven by data. Bertaud makes sensible points about transportation, density, and housing. The approach of the book is that bottom-up development driven by free-markets is most often hindered by artificial planning which is grounded neither in reality, nor able to adapt to change.

In the foreword to Weber's Protestant Ethic, R. H. Tawney states that "All revolut
Jad Fenergi
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
we did make a video summary of 3 parts for anyone interested in purchasing that book :

this book is a must read for architects, urban architects and urban planners.

these are some of the general ideas that this book cover:

In the previous century the cities were heavily populated due to the lack of proper transportation, but once the metro and the cars where introduced, people gained the ability to allocate themselves where they can tolerate the cost of transportation.

in free
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Author's unique careers lends to unique insights, fascinating stories, and the shortcomings of central planning. Interesting read from a complex systems context, regardless of your interest in urban design. Bertaud presents and provides commentary on market forces, and design constraints on the less to more arbitrary scale. Experiences scales from underdeveloped, to the most developed parts of the world. Differences and similarities are presented in an easy to understand way.

Taking one star off,
Soemantri Rio Hassan
I am Rio from Jakarta-Indonesia in my facebook account Soemantri itz Rio Hassan you can see album named Charter Cities. Then I found Mr Romer discuss with the author Alian Bertaud.

Jakarta as a sampling Mr Alain Bertaud in six Chapter is really interesting coz now preparing to move the Cities in East Kaimantan soon. I think Mr Alain Bertaud book must read our leader in Indonesia as I did. Good Job Mr Alain Bertaud.

Best Regards
Vipin Sharma
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Really great book with counter-intuitive insights (to begin with)about cities and urban planning which now seem so obvious to me after reading this book.
Definitely going in my "to be reread" list.
Highly Recommended.
Adam Zethraeus
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thorough exploration of the how market distortions fundamental to conventional urban planning hurt the populace they’re intended to protect—and of what the roles our city planners should instead perform.
Govind Nair
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has many great ideas any citizen should be familiar with. I summarized some of them here:
Kian Tajbakhsh
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic
IMO the most important book of urbanism currently available by perhaps the world's leading urbanist and urban planner. ...more
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish this book was published 7 years earlier; it answered so many of the doubts I had when studying urban planning at university.
Harsha Varma
Urban planning is a fascinating subject. Cities are the heart of civilisations. Often, we attribute great cities to great design, by prominent urban planners like Haussmann or Le Corbusier. Yet, cities are complex. And for everything complex, it is markets, not designers or planners, that lead to efficient spontaneous order. Markets, even when working imperfectly, can easily integrate the complexity of information required to shape cities.

Cities are primarily labour markets. A city’s main qualit
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: planning, ebook
Dry, but highly informative and useful

This book is very dry. Not text book dry, and not cut and dry, but technical and academic. That said, the hypothesis, that economics needs to play more of a role in local government planning and management is right on target. We're talking economics not economic development. There is an important difference. One understands and studies data and outputs, the other is marketing at a high level.

The author is very good at communicating. If you're in the professi
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very thorough book about urban planning and economics. It’s quite frustrating to see how cities I’m familiar with (Amsterdam, Berlin) that are going through growth are mismanaging it so poorly that rents are skyrocketing, leading to people getting stuck into their current situations when they would be better off moving.

Some of the insightful effects:
* A lack of enough housing for the growth of a population leads to an increase in rents for all kinds of housing, as people with high incomes will s
Dan Trubman
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A worthwhile read, but one that's largely more applicable for urban policy in developing countries (unsurprisingly given the author's background). Generally, but not exclusively, Bertaud assumes that policymakers will have the ability to significantly change a wide range of policies, in a way that's obviously not true in most developed nations where the control over urban policies & finances is incredibly fragmented. Often I was frustrated by his assumption that policymakers could simply remove ...more
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is no computable optimum, only choices. Without data, anyone who does anything is free to claim success.
Alexander Chetkovich
Just explains how and why cities function like they do super well.
Andrew Louis
Instead of trying to distill my feelings into a rating, I will say that this book was challenging, sometimes infuriating, but probably worth reading. Like most libertarian thinking, there's an emphasis on ideal/rational equilibriums without much consideration for the political pathways required to attain them. ...more
Kevin Whitaker
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: policy
Everyone gives this book rave reviews. If you're the kind of person interested in this book, you should probably listen to them and not me. It was dry and textbook-y, not what I was looking for at the time, so I really struggled to get through it.

Three things I learned:
1. Where roads developed privately (e.g. Wall Street in NYC), they don't work together well to facilitate overall accessibility
2. Housing choices are a function of floor space, quality per floor space, and location. Location in p
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pardon the abbreviated review:
This felt more like a textbook than I anticipated -- went in with the wrong expectations. That said, it was an enjoyable overview of how urban planners and urban economists should work together to cultivate, not Niemeyer (used here in verb form), our cities. I enjoyed learning about the various quantitative metrics we can use to study cities e.g. FAR.
Dec 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting insights but the evident neoliberal undertones and writing style did not appeal to me very much. Heavily influenced by Schlomo Angel’s research and writings, whose book I picked up after reading this and found to be more informative and less didactic. Overall, it is a book that pushes the author’s opinion leaving little room for the readers to form their own.
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“I want to make it clear that I am not implying here that all housing issues can be solved through market solutions. Many cases of homelessness, for instance, particularly in affluent cities, stem from social welfare policies and require and immediate government action. It is important from the beginning to clearly separate emergency social welfare from housing policy. Too often, housing policy is conceived as an extension of social welfare applied to the middle class.
In every large city, a small number of households - some may be one-person households - are unable to pay for their housing. They end up in the streets. These households may be permanently or temporarily disabled - physically or mentally - or may have experienced bad luck that results in long unemployment periods. It is certainly the duty of the government to provide a shelter for them as an emergency service. Once in an emergency shelter, social workers can identify those who are likely to be permanently unable to earn an income and then direct them toward a social housing shelter, where specialized staff will follow up on their case. Other homeless households may need only temporary help to find a job and a house they can afford before they rejoin the city's active population. The provision of homeless shelters is not part of housing policy, as it has little to do with supply and demand.”
“For electric vehicles, the power plant generators alimenting the electrical grind will then produce the GHGs, not the car engine itself. Concerns for GHG emissions would then shift to the source of electric power generation and away from car manufacturers.
Currently, there is a wide difference in GHGs emissions in various electrical grids, depending on the source of energy fueling the generators. The low emissions from Swedish and French grids are explained by a combination of nuclear and hydroelectric generation, while the high emissions of the Polish and US grids stem from the use of coal as a fuel in some generators. However, the emissions from the Californian grid are nearly half those of the IS average! The regional differences in emissions in the US grid are also explained by the differences in fuels used for electricity generation: California has a high proportion of hydroelectricity and nuclear plants, while in Michigan generation plants the dominant production fuels are coal and crude oil.
Anybody concerned with GHG emissions should certainly switch to electric cars in Sweden, France, and California, but should use gasoline when driving in Michigan or Poland!”
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