A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America

A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America

Vishaan Chakrabarti
Metropolis Books
May 2013

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“Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers.”

The above quote from Bleak House by Charles Dickens, paints a typical picture of cities as dirty, crowded, and unhealthy places during the industrialization and urbanization of nineteenth century Britain. Fast-forward to today and Vishaan Chakrabarti has turned that picture upside down, arguing urbanization and the growth of (thoughtfully) planned cities are the cure to environmental and social challenges the U.S. and other developed countries face today.

A Country of Cities is published in smooth glossy pages full of high-impact visuals and arguments supported by academic research and knowledge informed by the author’s position as a Director at Columbia University. Chakrabarti argues that population density provides opportunities to reduce our impact on the environment, especially through building mass transit infrastructure such as subway systems in highly populated areas to reduce the need for cars (and their exhaust pollution!) commuting to and from the suburbs. At the same time, population density provides opportunities for employment and for building advanced social infrastructure such as hospitals and education to improve quality of living.

The underlying theme woven throughout of A Country of Cities is a faith in what we can accomplish by living smart and working together to make improvements to how we live. We highly recommend this book and challenge you to pick up a copy and consider how these ideas apply to your own way of life! Though not directly related, some of the themes in this book can indirectly inform project management. For example, the innovation and compound benefits that stem from increased population density could suggest that intensifying cooperation and teamwork would produce similar positive results on a project!