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Peter Calthorpe is one of the leaders of the "New Urbanism" movement, and Sim Van der Ryn is a leader in the "sustainable architecture" area. The original impetus for the book was a 1980 conference of 45 people for a week-long "Solar Cities Design Workshop."
This 1986 book was reissued in 1991 by the Sierra Club, and gathers ten essays (two by Calthorpe, one by Van der Ryn, and one by both) on subjects such as "The New Suburban Fabric," "Design as if People Mattered," "Local Self Reliance," "Metropolitan Food Systems and the Sustainable City, "Real Possibilities in the Transportation Myths," "A Short History of Twentieth Century New Towns," etc.
There are many interesting observations throughout the book, such as, "A 'village' is different from a suburb or a 'bedroom community' in that it brings together homeplace, workplace, and necessary services and amenities into a well-balanced, complete community. Thus, the integration of employment centers and convenience shopping and services is an important aspect of the solar village plan"; "With the exception of Village Homes in Davis, California, today's 'solar villages' or village-scale experiments are mostly intentional communities, drawing to them people who already have a value system that includes an ecological awareness and a desire to live by consuming less and sharing more."
In Calthorpe's concluding essay, he soberly notes, "it is important to note the failings and problems of the garden city concept. Though the garden cities succeeded in a real mix of housing, workplaces, and commerce, it was a mistake to believe they could be autonomous."
Although somewhat "dated," this book is still of interest to those interested in urban planning, the New Urbanism, ecovillages, intentional communities, etc.