Evolving Urban Form: São Paulo


São Paulo is Brazil's largest urban area and ranks among the top 10 most populous in the world. Between 1950 and 1975, São Paulo was also among the globe’s fastest growing urban areas. For two decades starting in 1980 São Paulo ranked fourth in population among the world's urban areas, but has been displaced by much faster growing urban areas like Manila and Delhi.  read more »

Form Follows Zoning


When Louis Sullivan, purveyor of modern American high-rise architecture, said more than 100 years ago that ‘Form Follows Function’, he perhaps didn’t realize the extent to which building form would not be determined only by building type and the laws of physics, but by zoning laws, building safety codes, real estate developer balance sheets and even vocal neighborhood groups.  read more »

Vermont's 'New Agriculture': Mini-Farms and the Urban Boundary

Vermont, Four Springs Farm.jpg

The “new agriculture” is typically small-acreage, intensively-managed, organic (in contemporary terms) in that it avoids both chemical use and genetic modification, and uniquely adaptable to such practices as niche-market services, consumer associations (community-sharing) and pick-your-own. One could argue that it won’t supplant present-day large-scale commercial generic-commodity agriculture any time soon.  read more »


Why I Don’t Live In Indianapolis


It’s no secret that Indianapolis has been a huge focus of my blog over the years. One of the biggest criticisms I get here, especially when I ding some other city, is that I’m nothing more than a mindless booster for Indy. While I like to think I’ve given the city a lot of tough love over the years, it’s definitely true that I’ve had many, many good things to say, and I have no problem saying that I’m a big fan of the city overall.

Why then, might one ask, don’t I actually live in Indianapolis?  read more »

Let L.A. Be L.A.


Victor’s Restaurant, a nondescript coffee shop on a Hollywood side street, seems an odd place to meet for a movement challenging many of Los Angeles’s most powerful, well-heeled forces. Yet amid the uniformed service workers, budding actors, and retirees enjoying coffee and French toast, unlikely revolutionaries plot the next major battle over the city’s future. Driving their rebellion is a proposal from the L.A. planning department that would allow greater density in the heart of Hollywood, a scruffy district that includes swaths of classic California bungalows and charming 1930s-era garden apartments.  read more »

America's Future Is Taking Shape In The Suburbs


For nearly a generation, pundits, academics and journalists have written off suburbia. They predict that the future lies in the cities, with more Americans living in smaller spaces such as the micro-apartments of 300 square feet or less that New York and San Francisco are considering changing their building laws to allow.  read more »

Density is Not the Issue: The Urban Scaling Research


The "urban scaling" research of Geoffrey West, Luis Bettencourt, Jose Lobo, Deborah Strumsky, Dirk Helbing and Christian Kuhnert on cities has attracted considerable attention (references below). They have provided strong quantitative evidence, based upon voluminous econometric analysis that cities tend to become more efficient as they grow in population.  read more »

Predictable Punditry Down Under


The New South Wales Government has been following an extreme version of currently fashionable planning doctrines based on higher population densities. These policies have resulted in exorbitant housing costs and increasing traffic congestion.  A Liberal/National Coalition Government has come into power in New South Wales, replacing the previous Labor Government. In its election platform it promised to change planning policies for the better.  read more »

Housing Affordability Protests Occurring in "Livable" Hong Kong, Not "Sprawling" Atlanta


The Economist has published another in its city rating series, under the headline "The Best city in the World." This one was the result of a contest examining ways to elaborate on its rating system. The winner, Filippo Lovato, added a spatial dimension to the ratings, which included a 5 point rating of "sprawl," a pejorative term for the natural expansion of cities (which in this article means urban areas, areas of continuous urban development).  read more »

Modern Families: Fact from Fiction


I sometimes struggle with our willingness to look straight through evidence to see only what we want to see, or what we believe we should be seeing. Some recent interpretations of the Australian census and conclusions about housing form and consumer choice regrettably fall into this category.

Early results from the Australian census may have disappointed some boosters who have actively promoted the view that the typical family household is a thing of the past. The argument has had many forms but usually includes one or more of the following:  read more »