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'The Art of Classic Planning' Critiques a 'Century of Bad Planning'

A book review of a book published this year with the title, "The Art of Classic Planning: Building Beautiful and Enduring Communities," offers stinging criticism of the past and present of planning.
March 13, 2020, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Jon Bilous

"Despite the fact that there are more urban planners than ever, the built environment only seems to grow steadily worse."

So begins Anthony Paletta’s book review of The Art of Classic Planning: Building Beautiful and Enduring Communities, written by Nir Haim Buras and published by Harvard University Press.

The book, which was published in January 2020, takes aim at the “paradox” described above. According to Paletta’s explanation, "[the] voluminous study draws upon a wonderful range of real locations for taking lessons. Buras’ argument, in large part, is that the prior canon of planning literature had access to almost all of these things, and yet persistently drew either the wrong or incomplete conclusions."

Before the review is over, Paletta compares planners to plastic surgeons, and name drops Camillo Sitte, Kevin Lynch, and Le Corbusier. Buras inspires this range, however, as Paletta is careful to note:

Buras seems to have been everywhere, and draws on examples from all of these places in demonstrating sound planning from the Maidan in Isfahan in Iran, to Andrassy Avenue in Budapest, to Jai Singh’s plan of Jaipur, to Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. He dedicates significant attention to centuries of planning concepts of every sort of variety, from the McMillan Plan for Washington D.C. to Feng Shui, Vastu Shatra, and the Spanish colonial Laws of the Indies concerning colonial construction, to recent psychological studies of responses to built environments. It is a deeply impressive and erudite contextualization of a massive range of material.


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Published on Friday, March 6, 2020 in The American Conservative
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