Weitzman News

Posted May 5, 2016

Cities at Risk, Mysteries of the Mall, Informal Settlements

PennDesign Faculty and Alumni Publications in Brief

The ever-prolific Witold Rybczynski offers a fresh compilation of essays in Mysteries of the Mall: And Other Essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). This time around, the PennDesign Martin and Margy Meyerson Professor Emeritus of Urbanism casts a critical eye at everything from college towns to vacation homes and the roles they play in today’s cities.

It’s the park-in-the-sky idea that launched seemingly a thousand imitators and in The High Line (Phaidon), Professor of Landscape Architecture James Corner documents the inspiration behind and challenges of realizing an exciting project that has become one of New York's most beloved.

How do organic, and often illegal, settlements bump against and benefit from market forces and local governments? In Slums: How Informal Real Estate Markets Work (Penn Press) City and Regional Planning faculty members Eugenie L. Birch and Susan M. Wachter, co-directors of Penn’s Institute for Urban Research (along with co-editor Shahana Chattaraj of Oxford University), ask experts from a wide array of disciplines to take a crack at answering what proves to be a very complex question.

In Becoming Jane Jacobs (Penn Press), alumnus Peter Laurence (Ph.D Arch ’09), offers a critical examination at how the celebrated author and activist arrived at her theories on what makes for successful cities. In his biography, Laurence closely examines the influences on Jacobs, including those, such as Philadelphia icons Edmund Bacon and Louis Kahn, she would later come to criticize.

The eponymous issues explored in Public Pensions and City Solvency (Penn Press), edited by Wachter, may be perceived as confusing and, worse, boring, but these unfunded liabilities total nearly $100 billion at the city level, according to a Pew study. The essays in this collection lay out the ramifications of a “silent financial crisis,” and present recommendations and case studies from overseas that might provide salve — and solutions.