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DIY City

The Collective Power of Small Actions

Hank Dittmar



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Island Press
15 June 2020
Some utopian plans have shaped our cities —from England’s New Towns and Garden Cities to the Haussmann plan for Paris and the L’Enfant plan for Washington, DC. But these grand plans are the exception, and seldom turn out as envisioned by the utopian planner. Inviting city neighborhoods are more often works of improvisation on a small scale. This type of bottom-up development gives cities both their character and the ability to respond to sudden change.

Hank Dittmar, urban planner, friend of artists and creatives, sometime rancher, “high priest of town planning” to the Prince of Wales, believed in letting small things happen. Dittmar concluded that big plans were often the problem. Looking at the global cities of the world, he saw a crisis of success, with gentrification and global capital driving up home prices in some cities, while others decayed for lack of investment.
In DIY City, Dittmar explains why individual initiative, small-scale business, and small development matter, using lively stories from his own experience and examples from recent history, such as the revival of Camden Lock in London and the nascent rebirth of Detroit. DIY City, Dittmar’s last original work, captures the lessons he learned throughout the course of his varied career—from transit-oriented development to Lean Urbanism—that can be replicated to create cities where people can flourish.
DIY City is a timely response to the challenges many cities face today, with a short supply of affordable housing, continued gentrification, and offshore investment. Dittmar’s answer to this crisis is to make Do-It-Yourself the norm rather than the exception by removing the barriers to small-scale building and local business. The message of DIY City can offer hope to anyone who cares about cities.
By:   Hank Dittmar
Imprint:   Island Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 206mm,  Width: 133mm, 
ISBN:   9781642830521
ISBN 10:   1642830526
Publication Date:   15 June 2020
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Reviews for DIY City: The Collective Power of Small Actions

A worthy contribution to the planning literature. -- Public Square Dittmar's 156-page, photo filled book mirrors his core faith in making small happen. It is chock full of ideas that befits Dittmar's long career working on revitalization strategies. As cities face unprecedented economic challenges due to COVID-19, Dittmar's strategies are even more worth reading about. -- Beyond Chron Readers interested in learning how to get things done right now in their communities will find Hank's experience and insights engaging and empowering. --Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, FAIA, CNU, Partner DPZ CoDESIGN Beyond Chron Most planners care about places, maps, buildings, and codes. Hank cared about people first and foremost along with music, culture--and counterculture. DIY City is elegant and egalitarian and human as hell. It is as human as Hank was. It brings his legacy to a whole new generation. --Robin Rather, CEO, Collective Strength Beyond Chron Hank Dittmar was my mentor, my source of inspiration, my conscience. His superpower was seeing how to cut through the bull**** and get straight to the heart of what makes our communities tick. DIY City is an open-source guide to Hank's superpowers, giving each of us the tools to make communities places where we can all thrive. --Shelley Poticha, Managing Director, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program, NRDC Beyond Chron Hank Dittmar honed the craft of artisan urbanism long before such skills became fashionable and lucrative. This book captures what he learned along the way and offers inspiration and guidance to those who can carry his knowledge about building better places forward. DIY City represents a wonderful testament to the life of an innovative urbanist because it will help those who engage with its ideas to make more people feel at home in the cities of tomorrow. --Anthony Perl, Professor of Urban Studies and Political Science, Simon Fraser University Beyond Chron

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