I finally got around to finishing Towards a New Architecture this weekend, and had urban planning on my mind. Corbusier's big ideas put into practice, tall concrete high-density blocks in places like Cabrini-Green, are all but demolished. There's still something great about that book though, just the weird writing style he uses and the bold statements scattered all over the place make me want to keep coming back to it. They aren't suggestions or ideas for a new city - they are his solutions, take them or leave them. It seems to me like his ideas were never undertaken to their full extent, just the easy parts of his redevelopment plans realized.
The cities that Le Corbusier and followers like Robert Moses desired are long out of style, their damage still being undone. Part of what makes their plans problematic is the heavy reliance on cars and commuters going from the suburbs to the city and back again.
A new article is up at The New Republic dealing with demographic issues of the 21st century American city. The argument generally goes that Jane Jacob's ideal of families in the city living close to their jobs in vibrant neighborhoods is becoming closer and closer to a reality, driven by rising fuel costs and a weariness with suburban lifestyles. Of course with all these new affluent people moving to the inner city, people will get displaced. And that is the interesting potential future for the city - will American cities begin to look like Vancouver, or -to a more extreme extent- Paris? Will suburbs fall into decay and crime as low income families are pushed out of the denser city centers?
The author doesn't think it will go that that extreme and I don't either, suburbs like mine are tending to get denser and more city-like, trying to attract the same sort of people who'd like to move to Chicago with high-rise condos and denser city centers. But even as murder rates have declined over the past few decades in Cook County, the collar counties have had spikes in violent crime.
Anyway the article is a good one, it's an interesting overview of recent trends and is pretty link-heavy to other good sites.