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Working Papers

The Demand-Side of Urbanism

Working paper #712
Witold Rybczynski

There are many ways to build cities: by royal edict, by centralized plan, by government regulation, even by the individual initiative of do-it-yourselfers, which is how large parts of the megacities in the Third World are built. In America, we have consigned community building to entrepreneurs. With rare exceptions, such as the construction of large city parks in the nineteenth century, and the Great Society urban renewal programs of the 1950s and 1960s, decisions about where and how to build have not been guided by bureaucrats or planners but by market demand. A market economy in a large and varied country that spans a continent inevitably provides many choices. The author discusses the implications of demand-side urbanism and describes several successful urban design strategies such as waterfront development, historical layering, mixed-use, and densification, that have responded to market demand.

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