The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs

Editors: Austin Williams and Alastair Donald (Pluto Press) 

The United Nations describes cities as ‘dynamic centres of creativity, commerce and culture’. Conversely, they are often described as hectic, tense, polluted and overcrowded. Two distinct descriptions, but are they mutually exclusive? Don’t they both describe the city?

Is the city, the place of anonymity, or civic engagement? Will developing countries lose cultural identity in their transition to urban economies – and, if so, will it be worth it? Are cities dynamic centres of innovation and culture – or dated modes of organization? Are cities sociable, or anti-social? Should historic centres be conserved or demolished to create new? Are cities too impersonal or welcoming? Is a stress-free, uncongested city a contradiction in terms – but should we be striving for it anyway? Do cities encourage liberal free expression, or conformity?

This book explores the paradoxes, contradictions and challenges of an urban world.

“It is quite odd, even mildly bracing to read such a determinedly modernist book”…  “a provocative and very readable book.”  Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times

Buy this book from Amazon (UK)

The Future of Community: Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated

Editors: Martin Earnshaw, Dave Clements, Alastair Donald & Austin Williams (Pluto Press) 

We are constantly being told that we are losing a ‘sense of community’. This book shows that the notion of community is actually under threat from the very thing supposed to protect it: relentless government intervention.

The family and collective institutions have certainly suffered in the face of market forces and moralising. But, the authors argue, a far bigger threat to social solidarities comes from the crisis of political confidence. Replacing a political vision for society with instrumental attempts to create ‘community’ has given rise to unelected ‘community leaders’, and formalised community relationships to the detriment of traditional freedoms. This book argues that for genuine communities to flourish we need a space, free from official intervention, where people can confidently negotiate their own relations.

Buy this book from Amazon UK.

Enemies of Progress

Author: Austin Williams (Imprint Academic) 

This book examines the concept of sustainability and presents a critical exploration of its all-pervasive influence on society. Each chapter examines a particular guise of ‘sustainability’; from architecture to energy policy, from first world to underdeveloped world. It is, the author argues, a pernicious, corrosive doctrine that has survived primarily because there seems to be no alternative to its canon: in effect, its bi-partisan appeal has depressed critical engagement and neutered politics.

‘A well argued humanist alternative to the present conformist consensus – a very persuasive contribution by a thoughtful subversive.’  Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology at University of Kent, author of ‘Politics of Fear’

‘A much needed diagnosis of the bleak anti-human pathology sometimes described as environmentalism’ Dominic Lawson, columnist for The Independent

‘Austin Williams has a gift for lobbing well-directed grenades.’ Philippe Legrain, author ‘Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them’

Read an edited sample of Chapter 5 The Pessimists: Putting the brakes on China and India.

For further details and reviews visit the Enemies of Progress blog site.

Buy this book from Amazon (UK)

Shortcuts Book 1: Structure and Fabric. Book 2: Sustainability and Practice

Author: Austin Williams 

These two books are written and illustrated by Austin Williams and provide an idiot’s guide to construction. Presented in a journalistic style aided by cartoons, sketches and detail drawings, Williams says “effectively, I read the regulations so that you don’t have to”… (although there are plenty of references for further reading should you so wish).

Although I have 25 years experience in Building Control, I still find that it is easier to explain regulations to a client using Austin’s Shortcuts than to refer to the Approved Documents.” Geoff Wilkinson, Vice Chair, Faculty of Building Control and Standards, CIOB

Shortcuts is very much like its author: swiftly getting to the core of the matter in a precise and concise style. Importantly it also sees through much of the bureaucracy” Simon Allford, AHMM

Buy Shortcuts 1 & 2 from RIBA Bookshops

Manifesto: Towards a New Humanism in Architecture

Author: Mantownhuman

“We, in ManTowNHuman, believe that a more critical, arrogant and future-oriented cadre of architects and designers can challenge the new eco-centred, bureaucratic, anti-intellectual, fragmentary, localising consensus and in this way can lay the ground rules for overcoming the cosy rut in which architecture now finds itself.”

As featured in Penguin Modern Classics 100 Artists’ Manifestos: From the Futurists to the Stuckists

I love this manifesto – it has guts and irreverence and gusto. Almost every aspect of it is designed to upset and maybe that is the point. It is wilful and dangerous, with a strong tone of belligerence.” Will Alsop

“This manifesto is the big reminder not to be scared of being scared or being scary… I loved reading it.” Thomas Heatherwick

Find out more about mantownhuman here

For a hard copy of the manifesto, please send an A4 s.a.e. to 45 St Lawrence Court, De Beauvoir Estate, London, N11 5TP.

Download a pdf of the manifesto here

Society Wars

Editors: Dave Clements and Martin Earnshaw (Social Policy Forum)

Big society, broken society, sick society, stuck society? Who gets to say how we should behave when it comes to what we smoke, drink and eat? Politicians, nudgers, doctors? Should volunteering for the greater good be compulsory? Does living life dependent on welfare risk actually making people morally and physically sick? Should our schools become engines of social mobility’ or are they ill-equipped to tackle ingrained social inequalities? Written for the Battle for Social Policy debates at the Battle of Ideas 2011, these essays take a step back from the minutiae of policy-making to consider the wider societal implications.

Download a pdf version of Society Wars here

Attitudes to the City

Authors: Martin Earnshaw, Dave Clements (editors) 

This Attitudes to the City research paper investigates the attitudes that people have towards crime and anti-social behaviour and how their views reflect – or impact upon – their primary concerns of city life in the UK. It explores issues that are often regarded as ‘problems’ for cities and society.