Author(s): Joel Kotkin
In The Human City, internationally recognized urbanist Joel Kotkin challenges the conventional urban-planning wisdom that favors high-density, "pack-and-stack" strategies. By exploring the economic, social, and environmental benefits of decentralized, family-friendly alternatives, Kotkin concludes that while the word "suburbs" may be outdated, the concept is certainly not dead. Aside from those wealthy enough to own spacious urban homes, people forced into high-density development must accept crowded living conditions and limited privacy, thus degrading their quality of life. Dispersion, Kotkin argues, provides a chance to build a more sustainable, "human-scale" urban environment. After pondering the purpose of a city--and the social, political, economic, and aesthetic characteristics that are associated with urban living--Kotkin explores the problematic realities of today's megacities and the importance of families, neighborhoods, and local communities, arguing that these considerations must guide the way we shape our urban landscapes. He then makes the case for dispersion and explores communities (dynamic small cities, redeveloped urban neighborhoods, and more) that are already providing viable, decentralized alternatives to ultra-dense urban cores. The Human City lays out a vision of urbanism that is both family friendly and flexible. It describes a future where people, aided by technology, are freed from the constraints of small spaces and impossibly high real estate prices. While Kotkin does not call for low-density development per se, he does advocate for a greater range of options for people to live the way they want at various stages of their lives. We are building cities without thinking about the people who live in them, argues The Human City. It's time to change our approach to one that is centered on human values.
Praise for Joel Kotkin's The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us "[Kotkin] weaves an impressive array of original observations about cities into his arguments, enriching our understanding of what cities are about and what they can and must become." --Shlomo Angel, Wall Street Journal "Kotkin argues that suburbs are where middle-class families want to live... A city hostile to the middle class is, in Kotkin's view, a sea hostile to fish." --Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek "[The] kinds of places that are getting it right ... we might call Joel Kotkin cities, after the writer who champions them. These are opportunity cities ... [that] are less regulated, so it's easier to start a business. They are sprawling with easy, hodgepodge housing construction, so the cost of living is low... We should be having a debate between the Kotkin model and the [Richard] Florida model, between two successful ways to create posterity." --David Brooks, New York Times "Kotkin's premise focus[es] on the predictions made by some economists who believe suburbs are going to wither as more Americans return to the cities. He [says] those have been hasty reactions to the 2008 economic recession, and that humans' desire for spacious living remains strong. " --Ronnie Wachter, Chicago Tribune "The Human City ... takes a wider and longer view. Kotkin shows how cities developed as religious, imperial, commercial, and industrial centers... To his subject Kotkin brings a useful worldwide perspective." --Michael Barone, Washington Examiner "[Kotkin] believes it's time to start rethinking what suburbia can be and to become more strategic about how it evolves." --Randy Rieland, Smithsonian.com "Kotkin recommends that we embrace a kind of 'urban pluralism'... That means a sustained effort to make the city livable, yes, but it also entails acceptance of the suburbs... The reality of suburban life isn't as grim as the naysayers suggest, and Kotkin rattles off a long list of statistics to prove it." --Blake Seitz, Washington Free Beacon "[Kotkin] writes that the suburbs are alive and well--and are positioned for strong opportunity." --Michael Stevens, Crain's Chicago Business "Whether you're a downtown dweller or suburbanite, renter or owner, there is plenty of urban food for thought in The Human City." --Deborah Bowers, Winnipeg Free Press "A long and lucid argument against ... the current orthodoxy--that high-density living in the core, rather than suburban sprawl, is the optimal design for the modern urbanopolis." --Pat Kane, New Scientist "[The Human City] is a prolonged argument for development that responds to what people want and need during the course of their lives ... [It] is not meant as an anti-urbanist tract, but rather as a redefinition of urbanism to fit modern realities and the needs of families... It's hard to argue with that point." --David R. Godschalk, Urban Land Magazine "The notion that people are dying to leave the suburbs is just not true... Kotkin [says] most of the job growth and affordable housing are in the suburbs." --Kim Mikus, Daily Herald Advance praise for Joel Kotkin's The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us "The most eloquent expression of urbanism since Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Kotkin writes with a strong sense of place; he recognizes that the geography and traditions of a city create the contours of its urbanity." --Fred Siegel, scholar in residence at St. Francis College, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research "Kotkin is a refreshingly poetic and compelling writer on policy; he weaves data, history, theory, and his own probing analysis into a clear and soulful treatise on the way we ought to live now." --Ted C. Fishman, author of China, Inc. and Shock of Gray "Kotkin is one of the clearest urban writers and thinkers of our time. His first-hand experiences and insights on a broad array of issues such as inequity, infertility, lifestyle, and urban design shake the reader like a jolt of urban caffeine." --Alan M. Berger, codirector of the Center for Advanced Urbanism at MIT, founding director of P-REX Lab "While advocates trumpet megacities and global urbanization, Joel Kotkin makes an informed case for urban dispersal and argues that bigger and denser are not necessarily better." --Witold Rybczynski, author of Mysteries of the Mall "This book asks the crucially important question, 'What is a city for?' It should be read by all urban planners and included on the reading list for any urban planning course in a university." --Chan Heng Chee, chairman, Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, Singapore University of Technology and Design Praise for Joel Kotkin's The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050: "Given the viral finger-pointing and hand-wringing over what's seen as America's decline these days, Mr. Kotkin's book provides a timely and welcome... antidote." --Sam Roberts, New York Times "Kotkin... offers a well-researched--and very sunny--forecast for the American economy... His confidence is well-supported and is a reassuring balm amid the political and economic turmoil of the moment." --Publishers Weekly "A fascinating glimpse into a crystal ball, rich in implications that are alternately disturbing and exhilarating." --Kirkus Reviews "Kotkin provides a well-argued, well-researched and refreshingly calm perspective." -- Joe Friesen, The Globe and Mail "Lamenting its own decline has long been an American weakness... Those given to such declinism may derive a little comfort from Joel Kotkin's latest book." --The Economist "Kotkin has a striking ability to envision how global forces will shape daily family life, and his conclusions can be thought-provoking as well as counterintuitive." --WBUR-FM, Boston's NPR News Station Praise for Joel Kotkin's The New Class Conflict: "Kotkin is to be commended for seeing past the daily bric-a-brac of American politics to perceive the newly emerging class divisions." -- Jay Cost, The Washington Free Beacon "... Paints a dire picture of the undeclared war on the middle class." -- Kyle Smith, New York Post "... In having the courage to junk the old nostrums, [Kotkin] has taken an important step forward." --Financial Times "This original and provocative book should stimulate fresh thinking--and produce vigorous dissent." --Foreign Affairs Praise for Joel Kotkin's The City: A Global History: "... This fast read succeeds most with Kotkin as storyteller, flying through time and around the world to weave so many disparate histories into one urban tapestry." --The Fifth Annual Planetizen Top 10 Books List, 2006 Edition "... Offers fascinating insight into the ideologies that have created different city designs, and into the natural human desire to gather together to live and for commerce." --Steve Greenhut,The Orange County Register "The book is taut, elegant, informative and lots of fun to read. When I got to the end, I wished it had been longer." --Alan Ehrenhalt,Governing Magazine
Joel Kotkin teaches as a Presidential Fellow in urban futures at Chapman University (Orange, CA) and is the Executive Editor of the widely read website NewGeography.com. He is the author of seven previous books, and a regular contributor to The Daily Beast and Forbes.com.