From Publishers Weekly
In this enlightening if somewhat dry analysis of climate-conscious land use and development in the U.S., Russell, architecture columnist for Bloomberg News, shows how current policies and lending systems that encourage urban sprawl and car-based transportation are rooted in an old political conflict. The "Jeffersonian reluctance to constrict owners in their use of land" struggles with Alexander Hamilton's view that a centralized state is required in a world of increasing urbanization, "large scale industry... and an international banking system." Citing numerous examples of environmentally innovative, attractively livable development in Canada, the Netherlands, and other countries where planning authorities revive blighted areas and prepare for weather extremes, Russell conveys a frustration with the American impatience with city planning and distrust of government that have resulted in traffic-jammed urban sprawl and high living costs. He laments how innovations such as, in post-Katrina New Orleans, intensive planning sessions including all stakeholders as well as low-energy, hurricane-resistant housing developments founder through political timidity and government's financial neglect. Russell offers numerous solutions and recommends we focus the "kind of design acumen and analytical prowess" regularly invested in biotech and electronics on developing "citymaking models that take into account evolving business needs, residential diversity, and diverse natural systems, too." (June)
"Russell has the courage to discuss two subjects that are usually guaranteed to make your eyes glaze over (I know, I have written about them numerous times)—property rights and the real estate development industry—and he makes it interesting…. He argues persuasively for learning from the past… [and] is full of so many good ideas. He calls for a more creative, more agile way of regulating in a 'loose-fit' context. Simple rules. Smart Grids. Green economies. Slow food. But in the end, I am having trouble summarizing the most important recommendations of this book, because there are so many and they are so diverse."
"Russell's thesis is powerful, his reasoning tight, and his evidence persuasive. All told, The Agile City is one of the most compelling environmental treatises to appear in recent decades."
(Issues in Science and Technology
"The Agile City is a particularly astute summary and prescription for practical and nuanced organizational and economic strategies."
(Landscape Architecture Magazine
"...for an uninitiated audience, there are few texts comparable to The Agile City in terms of its comprehensive approach and efficient language."
(Global Site Plans
"The Agile City is a brilliant manifesto. James Russell makes a compelling case that climate change must be confronted at home: in the designs of our houses, apartments, workplaces and cities. But this is not just another 'green' initiative—the results could profoundly improve our quality of life—even as they help save the planet."
(James B. Stewart author of Tangled Webs and Den of Thieves
"James Russell offers a timely and compelling blueprint for a realistic transformation of America's energy consumption by refusing to fall victim to conventional thinking. Accessible—pragmatic even—Russell's proposals speak to goals on the immediate horizon and underscore the role that intelligent design can play now in America. On a longer horizon, his analysis points to a range of issues about land use, transportation, and coordination of public and private investments to which the design professions have an enormous contribution to make. Here design and policy find common ground."
(Barry Bergdoll Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art
"After observing architecture, real estate, and the built environment for decades, James Russell tackles the largest issue of the day: climate change. He demonstrates that practical, wealth-creating ways of growing and redeveloping American metropolitan areas will significantly address this crisis. Russell shows that local officials, real estate developers, building owners and homeowners can work in their own interests while meeting our long-term environmental goals."
(Christopher B. Leinberger University of Michigan, Brookings Institution and author of The Option of Urbanism
"This book helps the reader identify changes that make large impacts at low costs... The book helps readers take charge of their community's future by understanding the processes that make communities dynamic and adaptable."
"...the book provides some useful examples of realistic compromises which contribute to a less wasteful urban environment without attracting the wrath of the development industry. It also shows innovative actions taken on the margin, which have the potential to change legislation."
"instills hope and inspires movement toward being better at living on this planet"