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.
About the Author
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.
"[The book] does a commendable job of combining environmental consciousness, a general awareness of New Urbanism's principles, and a detailed knowledge of how conventional approaches to development and regulation have failed, not only in the US but worldwide."—New Urban News
"This insightful and original book investigates the hidden world of building codes and standards that have shaped and misshaped our cities over centuries. Ben-Joseph offers not only a new interpretation of the historical determinants of urban form; he also offers detailed proposals to liberate planners and citizens from what has become a convoluted and self-defeating system."
—Robert Fishman, Taubman College of Architecture and Planning, The University of Michigan
"This is not just one more book on American planning. It is the one intelligible and comprehensive explanation of the genetic basis behind the places that we inhabit. Codes are just that: the DNA of our cities. This book will be a revelation to those under the mistaken impression that our excellent or dismal living conditions are somehow inevitable."
—Andres Duany, Congress for the New Urbanism
"This book provides an excellent framework for analyzing the problems of contemporary planning and design, and why we are unable to build effective low-cost housing and have been forced to rely on private community development."
—Setha Low, The Graduate Center, City University of New York