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Eran Ben-Joseph

Eran Ben-Joseph has worked as a city planner and urban designer in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the United States. Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning at MIT, he is the author of The Code of the City (MIT Press) and coauthor of Streets and the Shaping of Towns and Cities and RENEW Town.

Titles by This Author

The Design and Culture of Parking

There are an estimated 600,000,000 passenger cars in the world, and that number is increasing every day. So too is Earth’s supply of parking spaces. In some cities, parking lots cover more than one-third of the metropolitan footprint. It’s official: we have paved paradise and put up a parking lot. In ReThinking a Lot, Eran Ben-Joseph shares a different vision for parking’s future. Parking lots, he writes, are ripe for transformation. After all, their design and function has not been rethought since the 1950s. With this book, Ben-Joseph pushes the parking lot into the twenty-first century.

Ben-Joseph shows that parking lots can be aesthetically pleasing, environmentally and architecturally responsible, and used for something other than car storage. He introduces us to some of the many alternative and nonparking purposes that parking lots have served—from RV campgrounds to stages for “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.” He shows us parking lots that are lushly planted with trees and flowers and beautifully integrated with the rest of the built environment. With purposeful design, Ben-Joseph argues, parking lots could be significant public places, contributing as much to their communities as great boulevards, parks, or plazas. For all the acreage they cover, parking lots have received scant attention. It’s time to change that; it’s time to rethink the lot.

Standards and the Hidden Language of Place Making

Standards and codes dictate virtually all aspects of urban development. The same standards for subdividing land, grading, laying streets and utilities, and configuring rights-of-way and street widths to accommodate cars (rather than pedestrians) have been adopted in many areas of the world regardless of variations in local environments. In The Code of the City, Eran Ben-Joseph examines the relationship between standards and place making. He traces the evolution of codes and standards and analyzes their impact on the modern city and its suburbs, arguing that it is time for development regulations to reflect site-specific and localized physical design.

Standards and codes were meant to bring order and safety to the city building process. But now, Ben-Joseph argues, these accumulated rules and their widespread application illustrate a disconnect between the original rationale for their existence and their actual effect on the natural and human environment. To discover how this separation of codes from local conditions came about, he looks at the origins of urban standards and their use, from early civilization through the rapid urbanization of the nineteenth century. He provides examples that demonstrate how standards have shaped residential developments and reshaped the natural landscape. And he considers alternatives for the future—innovation and de facto deregulation by private developers, new design technologies, and place-based regulations reflecting local conditions. Standards, writes Ben-Joseph, will continue to shape the built environment, but they must be flexible enough to allow for innovation and contribute to the development of sustainable and desirable communities.