Design library: Soccer, superstores, and Richard Scarry

Doggerel is always on the lookout for good books about design and the built environment. Here are picks from two transit experts and a structural engineer.


From Ryan Falconer, a transportation planner in our Toronto office:

Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies
By Charles Perrow

This intriguing study of technology and its deployment focuses on the increasing complexity of the systems we’re creating for ourselves and the issues they might create. The coupling of componentry might make it hard to identify when the system is not working as intended, let alone allow us to resolve the problem! Also, system changes might have a flow-on set of unintended consequences with unintended consequences. Perrow uses Three Mile Island as a case study.

Triumph of the City
By Edward Glaeser

Glaeser argues that cities need to grow and that compact development represents the best way to connect people with the services they need. In general terms, he also claims that growth (e.g., height) restrictions can place artificial ceilings (pun intended) on housing supply and therefore affordability — a big issue in many of the developed world’s cities. Glaeser presents Jane Jacobs as somewhat a hypocrite and swipes at the effects of onerous and overzealous heritage restrictions.


Big-Box Swindle
By Stacy Mitchell

This exposé contrasts the promise of superstores with their actual effects on the health and well-being of communities from the perspective of job diversity, local character, and financial independence. Also, the savings for consumers might not be all they’re cracked up to be.


From Eric Rivers, a planner in our New York office:

Rapido’s Next Stop
By Jean-Luc Fromental
Illustrated by Joëlle Jolivet

With three young kids at home, I tend to read more children’s stories than anything else. One of my current favorites is Rapido’s Next Stop. I love the illustrator’s use of black and saturated colors, but as a planner working in urban environments, Rapido’s journey through the fabric of the city is my favorite aspect of the book. The illustrator wonderfully captures the transition from historic waterfront through the old pedestrian-oriented city center to ’60s- and ’70s-era developments and highways, and finally into suburbia and farmland.

Iggy Peck, Architect
By Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by David Roberts

I’m sure many people in the design industry are familiar with Iggy Peck, Architect. I’m not sure which part I enjoy most: the wonderful rhythm and rhyme of the text, the modernist graphic sensibilities, or Iggy’s unrelenting passion for design. In any case, it’s a real gem.

What Do People Do All Day?
A Day at the Airport

By Richard Scarry

Richard Scarry has produced an extensive catalogue of children’s books over the years. Two good examples are What Do People Do All Day? and A Day at the Airport for the way he peers into the anatomy of buildings and infrastructure to reveal their inner workings. His diagrams, portrayed in his signature style, are clever and yet simple enough for both children and adults to learn from and appreciate.


From Jordan Woodson, a structural engineer in our Washington DC office:

Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer
By David Winner

While this book is more explicitly about the history of Dutch soccer and “total football”, the author touches on so much more. Winner relates the Dutch approach to soccer to the nation’s take on art, architecture, city planning, and space in general. Parallels between total football and Ove Arup’s total architecture abound.

The Glass Room
By Simon Mawer

This historical novel tells the story of a young Jewish couple leading up to and through World War II. Their house (based on Mies van der Rohe’s Villa Tugendhat) plays a central role in the story — the book documents how it changes during and after Nazi occupation.


Villa Tugendhat

Rosie Revere, Engineer
By Andrea Beaty
Illustration by David Roberts

Not a recommendation for adults! However, this is a wonderful book that my niece adores. Fun and colorful, it sets a fantastic example for young girls who want to be more than just a princess.


Print this post
Read More Articles